The USAHS School of Nursing is excited to welcome Helene Vossos, DNP, MSN, APRN, ANP-BC, PMHNP-BC, as associate professor and the coordinator of a new role specialty within our Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program. Dr. Vossos will lead the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) advanced practice specialty, one of two new specialties that USAHS is launching for the Spring 2022 term.
“I’m excited to join USAHS because of its student-first approach and its focus on the health sciences,” she says. “USAHS is special thanks to its interprofessional and innovative teaching strategies. And it’s close to home.” Dr. Vossos lives with her husband between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, Florida.
“We are delighted to have a published scholar, visionary leader, and clinical expert to develop and teach in the new PMHNP program,” says Kathleen Polley-Payne, PhD, RN, MSN, PNP, Executive Director of USAHS’ School of Nursing. “Dr. Vossos is committed to the student experience, and she has developed meaningful courses to engage students in online learning to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to excel as a mental health practitioner, advocate, and leader.”
Dr. Vossos is a national board–certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), adult nurse practitioner, nurse educator, author, and nurse leader. She was appointed as the 2021 president-elect and 2022 president of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association–Florida Chapter (APNA).
Hearing Her Calling
She began her journey caring for others as a child, helping her diabetic grandmother, who said, “You’re going to be a nurse.” And indeed, she entered the healthcare field early, becoming a medical assistant at age 19. “It was a calling,” she says. As a medical assistant, she was able to administer insulin to her grandmother. She also became certified as a radiography tech and studied cardiac ultrasonography.
Dr. Vossos worked in this capacity for 20 years while she and her husband raised two children. When their kids were in high school, she went back to school at Mid Michigan College in Harrison, Michigan. Her grandmother’s prediction came true, as she earned first her licensed practical nurse (LPN) certification, then her Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), followed by her registered nurse (RN) license. In 2004, she became a nurse educator, teaching anatomy and pathophysiology at Mid Michigan College.
Over the next several years, she worked at MyMichigan Medical Center Gratiot, where many of the physicians were nuns and “great teachers,” she says. She served first in the psychiatric and progressive care units, then in the critical care unit. She became a nurse educator, training RNs on EKG and telemetry certification skills. Her passion for psychiatry was sparked; she recalls, “I had a special bond with the psych patients in the critical care unit. I believed that we, as a team, could help them get better, when other nurses didn’t. I was their advocate.”
Becoming a PMHNP—and Beyond
Dr. Vossos decided to become a certified PMHNP because those with mental illness “are the most underserved, vulnerable, and grateful patients,” she says. “It’s my inherent talent to be able to provide a therapeutic relationship with patients, and promote health, hope, and healing.”
She enrolled in the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) at the University of Michigan–Flint (UM-Flint), where she earned a dual specialty as an adult nurse practitioner and PMHNP. “There is no whole health unless there is mental health,” she says, adding that in the PMHNP role specialty, “You learn to treat the patient’s mind, body, and soul. The patient may need psychotherapy, or treatment of an underlying medical condition, or spiritual care.”
While writing her thesis on transcultural nursing, she had the chance to meet Madeleine Leininger, MSN, PhD, the theorist who developed the concept of transcultural nursing—meaning, essentially, that “all patients deserve respect and culturally appropriate nursing care,” she explains. She continues to explore this interest in her research and practice it in the clinic.
Dr. Vossos went on to earn her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree at Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin. In her capstone project, she studied the impact of nurse-led interventions in successfully reducing hospital readmissions. She then taught in the undergraduate and graduate schools of nursing at UM-Flint for four years, where she managed 10 clinical sites and 10 clinical faculty members. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., visited her classroom to speak about the psychological trauma that the Flint water crisis inflicted on community members, who worried that their children would be poisoned by lead. She participated in the nurse-led crisis resolution, including a lead testing and referral system.
Over her career, Dr. Vossos has worked across diverse settings, including inpatient, outpatient, private practice, and a substance abuse treatment center. As part of her scholarship and service to nursing, she has authored many academic textbook chapters on mental health topics, including several on bipolar spectrum disorder. She has also authored journal articles and presented at national conferences.
Joining the USAHS Family
When her mother became ill in 2017, Dr. Vossos and her husband of 40 years moved back to Florida, where they live with their two dogs and two cats. Having grown up with her father in the Air Force, she gives back to veterans by seeing patients weekly at a VA residential program. When she’s not working, she enjoys fishing and gardening.
Dr. Vossos says she’s excited to join USAHS and leverage her extensive network of academic partnerships around Florida to establish more sites for practica. Students in the PMHNP role specialty will complete three practica, focusing on clinical experiences with children/adolescents, adults/older adults, and diverse populations. In the one on-campus clinical intensive that is part of this specialty, students will practice clinical skills hands-on in a Center for Innovative Clinical Practice (CICP). She plans to work with students on how to manage potentially suicidal patients, making differential diagnoses, practicing psychotherapy techniques, and prescribing and managing psychotropic medications. Dr. Vossos is helping to build the curriculum for this role specialty.
Helping Students Meet the Demand for PMHNPs
Dr. Vossos notes that the stress and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic has created a higher demand for mental health services. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compared reports from April–June 2019 to reports from June 2020, it found that the prevalence of suicidal ideation, anxiety disorders, and depressive disorders among U.S. adults had increased by two, three, and four times, respectively.
Although patient demand for mental health services is growing, out of 325,000 nurse practitioners in the United States, only 4.7% (or about 15,275) have a PMH specialty certification. “This creates a lot of opportunity for our students,” says Dr. Vossos.
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program with five popular role specialties: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP), Nurse Educator, and Nurse Executive. The nurse practitioner specialties feature a required on-campus clinical intensive, whereas all specialties feature optional on-campus immersions. The MSN has several options to accelerate your time to degree completion. Take your nursing degree to the next level of specialty practice.
USAHS also offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program with BSN- and MSN-entry options. The BSN-entry track features two role specialties: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Nurse Executive. The FNP specialty features one required on-campus clinical intensive, whereas both specialties feature optional on-campus immersions. Become a nurse leader and manage interprofessional teams with your DNP degree.
 Mark E. Czeisler et al., “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020,” the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), Aug. 14, 2020: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm
 American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), “NP Fact Sheet,” updated May 2021: https://www.aanp.org/about/all-about-nps/np-fact-sheet