Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program Supports Student’s Goal of More Compassionate Care

Hiba Masood
Future psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner Hiba Masood works in the Population Health Center's behavioral health center.

Future psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner Hiba Masood intends to use the power of education to fight substance use disorder misinformation.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) student Hiba Masood found her true calling to enter the field of psychiatry amidst the pandemic. With the advent of COVID-19 came a rise in psychiatric illness and the incidence of fatal overdoses. Unfortunately, this also coincided with a shortage of health care providers. Thus, Hiba returned to Mason to become a PMHNP and increase access to compassionate behavioral health care.

“Patient care can be considered an art that requires a scientific foundation and authenticity. Evidence-based practice is required to provide appropriate care, though it takes the unique experiences of practitioners to provide more individualized care,” she said. “Substance use disorder needs support, non-judgmental care, and compassion.”

As an alumna of Mason’s Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program, Hiba knew that Mason was the best place to further her education in order to gain additional skills to help those with substance use disorder. Mason’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner certification prepares graduates to perform a variety of mental health services including medication management. PMHNP’s perform a variety of roles including but not limited to conducting assessments, prescribing medication, and providing psychotherapy

Hands-on learning experiences are an essential part of the program. Hiba recently assisted in launching the Population Health Center’s behavioral health clinic. Alongside her cohort, Hiba learned the theory and practice of advanced practice psychiatric nursing in a variety of practice settings within the health care delivery system. Under the guidance of licensed preceptors, students working toward their PMHNP certification meet patients during their initial evaluation and follow them through their treatment journey. (Read more about the Population Health Center’s behavioral health clinic.)

“We are doing so much more than writing papers and trying to pass exams,” said Hiba. “One of the greatest experiences during this program is the ability to apply education into practice ensuring we are utilizing evidence based and individualized patient care.”

 Mason’s instructors are a part of what makes the College special and why Hiba chose to continue her education here. She spotlights Dr. Melanie Yousefi, who has supported her throughout the PMHNP program in both the instructional and clinical settings.

“The faculty are remarkable, very caring, and supportive,” she said. “They have so much experience and education that they share with us, ensuring we are prepared to support our community.”

Removing the Stigma of Substance Use Disorder

Hiba is a strong advocate for shedding light on the realities of substance use disorder as a disease rather than a behavior that requires punishment or isolation. She has seen first-hand how the negative perceptions of substance use disorder have dissuaded people from seeking health care. Hiba wants to educate those whose perceptions have been skewed by misinformation.

“When people feel judged they hide away and go through such a dangerous disease process alone,” said Hiba. “With education and compassion, we can remove that stigma, so those who need help are more encouraged to come forward to get the support they need without societal judgment or fear of criminalization.”

Those who suffer from substance use disorder often experience comorbidities including other psychiatric and medical disorders that can go untreated due to stigmatization. Hiba describes how the societally imposed shame associated with substance use disorder causes those who need compassion and support to combat this illness without help.

“People with substance use disorders are human, just like you and me and should be treated with dignity and respect. Substance use disorder is a chronic disease that necessitates holistic care similar to other diseases like diabetes or hypertension. Those battling with substance use disorder deserve the right to receive care like anyone else and live their best life,” Hiba said.

Hiba also notes the importance of utilizing medically appropriate language when referring to substance use disorders as a piece of de-stigmatization. There is a growing movement among health professionals to avoid perpetuating the negative attitudes associated with terms such as drug user and addict. Using vocabulary such as “a person with a substance use disorder” removes the blame from individuals and reframes substance use as a disorder. 

No Such Thing as One Size Fits All

Before starting the PMHNP certification process, Hiba worked in cardiology as a Registered Nurse (RN), in an inner-city hospital. She worked closely with the homeless population and incarcerated individuals, where the prevalence of substance use disorder and cooccurring illnesses are statistically higher. In her career as a RN and FNP, Hiba has always made it a priority to meet her patients’ individualized needs and ensure the patient’s support system is prepared to help them outside of her care. She has interned at various inpatient and outpatient facilities, including the College’s Population Health Center behavioral health clinic.

After completing her time at the behavioral health clinic and earning the title of PMHNP, Hiba is committed to putting her education into practice as well as her compassionate nature.

Providing medication-assisted treatment is one of the ways she plans to assist in the interdisciplinary care necessary for substance use disorder treatment. Hiba also plans on working with the adolescent population, supporting them through a vulnerable developmental time frame.

If you or someone you know is suffering from substance use disorder Mason’s Student Support and Advocacy Center offers resources.