By Addy Hatch
SPOKANE, Wash. – More than half the states mandate suicide-prevention training for public school teachers, but only seven states have policies requiring healthcare professionals to get similar training. That’s one of the findings of a research study conducted by Washington State University College of Nursing student Sara Van Natta.
She will present “Suicide Prevention Education: Policies for Healthcare Professionals across the United States” at SURCA, the Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities on Monday, March 27, at WSU Pullman. SURCA is a venue for undergraduate students to display their research, scholarship or creative activity and compete for awards. The awards ceremony will be livestreamed at 5 p.m. at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SWPo5yzVUM.
Van Natta is one of several College of Nursing students from WSU Spokane who will present their research. In conjunction with faculty members Janessa M. Graves and Carrie Holliday, she started with the research question, “What are the state policies for suicide prevention education in the U.S. and how do they compare to each other and national recommendations?”
A WSU honors student who will graduate in May with a bachelor of science degree in nursing, Van Natta said her topic was prompted by the number of people she knows – family, friends, coworkers – whose lives have been affected by suicide: “I wanted to look at how student nurses are trained in suicide prevention, then I realized there wasn’t any training even for nurses,” she said.
She notes in her research discussion that healthcare professionals are on the front lines to assess patients for the risk of suicide, which is the No. 1 preventable public health concern. Yet of the seven states that require suicide prevention training for behavioral/mental healthcare professionals, only one extends that requirement to general healthcare professionals as well.
Washington state passed a law in 2012 mandating suicide-prevention training for certain groups, which has been expanded to include all healthcare professionals.
“Washington is leading the country in an effort to educate all healthcare professionals to recognize patients who may be at risk for suicide and help get them the care they need,” said Graves. “Sara’s work highlights the need to expand this type of legislation beyond our state in order to address this critical public health issue.”
Van Natta concludes that more states should consider extending mandatory training to all healthcare professionals to help reduce suicide rates.