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Innovative Psychiatric-Mental Health Expert Dr. Laura Kelly to Lead Nurse Practitioner Tracks

Dr. Laura Kelly

A pioneer in the introduction of psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNP) in primary care settings, Laura Kelly PhD, PMHNP-BC, PMHCNS joined the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing (FCN) in June. She is clinical professor and director of the Graduate Program Nurse Practitioner tracks, including the newly launched psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner MSN and post-graduate certificate options, for which she is also track coordinator as of August. (FCN also has adult-gerontology, family and pediatric NP tracks.)

Dr. Kelly moved to FCN from Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City, where since 2016, she had served as program director of the Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner DNP Program, director of the Transgender/Non-Binary post-graduate Certificate Program and principal investigator on a Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Interprofessional Workforce Program grant for Interprofessional Trauma Informed Care ($1.9 million) that ends in August 2023. She also brings prior academic experience from Monmouth University and Bloomfield College in New Jersey.

“My passion as an educator and clinician is to provide access to care to individuals who struggle obtaining such services and to educate future clinicians to do the same,” explains Dr. Kelly.

“I have spent a significant portion of my clinical career treating patients directly impacted by violence. Working for nine years in a county correctional facility with adults and adolescents, I saw first-hand the ongoing effects of structural violence, increasing recidivism in the criminal justice system, creating a revolving door to vulnerable individuals,” she says.

Dr. Kelly has also spent 20 years working in two sizable Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC). FQHCs serve an underserved area or population.

In the early 1990s, she introduced PMHNPs in primary care settings, initially working as the first PMHNP in an FQHC with an extensive HIV clinic and prenatal clinic. Patients, most of whom were uninsured and many undocumented, had significant mental health issues and no history of ever meeting a mental health professional. “It was obvious to me that integrating behavioral health in primary care was the best way to get patients into treatment,” she recalls, “I had the ability to work with the primary care providers in the holistic treatment of patients suffering from the ill effects of poor mental and physical health.”

Dr. Kelly’s scholarship and research funding focuses on reproductive psychiatry (she has done award winning work on post-partum affective disorders such as post-partum depression), LGBTQIA+ individuals and trauma informed interventions.

Dr. Kelly has maintained active clinical practice. From 2006 to present she has served as Clinical Director and Nurse Practitioner at Yad Rachel, in Lakewood, NJ. From 2014 to present she has served as Clinical Director and Nurse Practitioner in the Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Center at RWJ Barnabas, in Eatontown, NJ. From 1993 to present she has maintained a Private Practice-Laura Kelly PhD, APN LLC, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner treating patients across the lifespan in Eatontown and Lakewood, NJ.

Dr. Kelly has vast experience with the nursing education accrediting agency Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) where she currently serves as a CCNE team leader for program evaluation.