Pine Rest Sees Training Demand Grow

July 16, 2007
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Behavioral health, like most areas of medicine, is rapidly changing, so education and training is a continuing process at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.

When President and CEO Mark Eastburg, Ph.D., joined Pine Rest 16 years ago, Prozac and Zoloft weren’t even in existence, but since then, a whole new class of medications has arrived on the scene. There’s a lot happening in behavioral health. Brain imaging advances are pushing behavioral health forward, telling the story of what’s going on in the brain, which helps professionals make more informed decisions about medications, Eastburg said. 

Also, there are new treatment approaches in how to work with patients, keep them safe and manage difficult behaviors in the hospital setting, Eastburg noted. To keep up with the field, behavioral health professionals really need to have ongoing training: That’s what Pine Rest’s Professional Lecture Series provides, he said.

Eastburg, along with Pine Rest’s medical director and professionals in both its inpatient and outpatient service areas, sits on the committee that selects topics for the series.

“They’re really in the vanguard of where the behavioral health field is moving,” said Ruth Davis, director of clinical practice. “They know the national experts, they attend national lectures, and they read the industry trade journals. As an institution, we’ve always placed a real high priority on educating our staff to be the best caretakers possible.” 

This year, lecture topics include: treatment of women with depression; brain-based treatment approaches for ADHD; recent advances in the pharmacologic treatment of schizophrenia; family psycho-education in schizophrenia; ethical challenges in care of patients with dementia; and treatment of resistant depression. 

Pine Rest offers training sessions for its staff and for people in the community who work in the behavioral health professions, such as social workers, physicians, psychologists, nurses, community mental health workers, activity therapists, guidance counselors, addiction counselors and clergy. The hospital hosts several external events, one of which is the Professional Lecture Series, which features nine to 10 outside speakers who address various timely topics in the field. Participants can earn credits toward re-licensure, which must be done every couple of years depending on the professional background, according to Andrew George, director of human resources.

Pine Rest provides medical education for nurses and doctors by hosting accredited breakfast and luncheon lectures delivered by national speakers. It also maintains an internship program for students of social work and nursing. The organization offers an Institute for Spiritual Care lecture series three times a year and a clinical pastoral education program once a year. Additionally, Pine Rest runs on- and off-site workshops for the general public, including its Marriage and Family Building Series, marriage preparation workshops, anger management workshops, and family wellness training. 

Pine Rest is building a $3.6 million Chapel/Conference Center on its campus at 300 68th St. SE in Cutlerville to meet the increasing demand for pastoral, medical, nursing and social work training in the community. The 15,500-square-foot center is designed with maximum flexibility in mind. The main auditorium will seat 250 at tables or 500 in individual seats, or the space can be divided into four conference rooms for smaller training sessions.

“We are building this in response to community feedback for providing improved, quality educational experiences in a modern facility for our staff and professionals throughout West Michigan,” Eastburg noted. “This new space really reflects our desire to keep up with acceleration in the field, and to have space for training and in-service education so it can be done in a more convenient way.”

When completed in November, the new facility will allow Pine Rest to video conference with its 23 outpatient facilities, noted Pam Mettler, director of marketing and community relations. Video conferencing capability will not only enhance people’s ability to listen in to programs and participate, but also save them travel time, Mettler pointed out. She said as the field of behavioral health grows, she anticipates that more people will want to come to Pine Rest for training and accreditation.

Eastburg said Pine Rest also plans to video conference with the Wheaton College Graduate School near Chicago and the Fuller Theological Seminary Graduate School of Psychology in Pasadena, Calif., so Pine Rest clinicians can stay on top of the latest developments in the field, and the academic institutions can use Pine Rest’s real-world experience to make their programs as relevant as possible.

“We’ve been committed to training for the last 50-plus years; it has just taken on different forms,” Eastburg said. “The new Chapel/Conference Center is really the latest in the evolution of how we emphasize training and education.”

Pine Rest has one of the largest psychiatrist staffs in the nation. Its campus facilities include residential services for adolescents and adults with mental health needs, residential services for adults with developmental disabilities, inpatient hospitalization and partial hospitalization programs. HQ

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