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University of Colorado College of Nursing

College of Nursing

Kate McGinley-West: Changing her goals to fit rural psychiatric needs

Student participates in clinical work in rural, underserved areas of Colorado

Kate McGinley-West

​Kate McGinley-West worked as a nurse, and then as a therapist in Sitka, Alaska up until a year and a half ago when her husband relocated for work.  After the move to rural Colorado, McGinley-West decided to pursue the master's degree in the Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (FPMHNP) program from the College of Nursing. She heard great recommendations for the program, and after hearing Mary Weber’s philosophy of nurse practitioners (NP) during her interview process, she decided the program was a perfect fit.

“I am excited to be pursuing a FPMHNP degree where I can combine my years of study and work as a psychotherapist with my nursing knowledge.”

McGinley-West is completing clinical work in Delores County, so she experiences rural psychiatric need first-hand. “The need here is very different from the needs in Sitka. There aren’t many NPs who specialize in psychiatry in rural areas of Colorado, even though the need is great.”

In her corner of Colorado, Delores and Montezuma Counties, there is only one prescribing psychiatrist, and her schedule is completely booked for the three days that she works in the area. Most of the time, primary care physicians have to handle psychiatric issues instead. “There are a lot of people in the middle of nowhere who need help.”

McGinley-West wants to help make mental health services available in Colorado’s rural areas for the extremely diverse population in need of psychiatric help. She points out that there’s a large geriatric psychiatric need, but it extends to all ages. Adolescents have some of the highest suicide rates in these poverty-stricken, rural areas.  Ideally, she wants to help with trauma care in a rural area, but this goal comes with many challenges.

It’s not easy to ask for or receive help. The mental health stigma is definitely prominent in rural Colorado. “I think the hardest thing is the lack of anonymity. It’s a small town; you meet them at the grocery store; you understand family dynamics,” which can be a challenge and a benefit. 

“I think that one of my strengths in working with rural folk is understanding this strong, surviving way of being while normalizing struggles or psychiatric problems without judgment or labels.”

While McGinley-West’s goal of combining her nursing practice and therapy to provide care to those in rural, underserved areas is challenging, her favorite thing is the people. She loves having the ability to have close relationships with the people she serves.

“I love doing therapy, but with a nursing background the focus is on fixing the problem in a more comprehensive way (medication management, referral for physical issues that they may be avoiding due to fear, past trauma or other reasons).”

 People sometimes avoid addressing psychiatric issues. “We should be as psychology-driven as we are physical-driven.”

“I hope to be an agent of change for psychiatric health here in this underserved area of Colorado.”