Psychiatric nurse fills gap in care

Claudia Amador

The first line of the first song sent piping through a speaker in the waiting room of psychiatric nurse practitioner Claudia Amador's ninth-floor office in downtown Victoria is "I've Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day."

It's before 9 a.m., and already two people have checked in at Amador's office looking for help. Amador is busy seeing another patient behind closed doors.

When she finally ushers a reporter back, she pauses for a moment, reconsidering.

"Actually, can you wait 15 minutes so I can take him?" she asks, nodding toward a patient buried in his cellphone, the same patient who arrived 30 minutes early for his 9 o'clock appointment.

Amador came to Victoria more than four years ago, and some say she's filling a need for psychiatric services in a seven-county region where the number of psychiatrists can be counted on one hand. But she says that's what all nurse practitioners do "in all specialties." She sees between 12 and 15 patients daily.

Like psychiatrists, nurse practitioners can prescribe medication except for certain controlled/scheduled medication.

Amador didn't always want to work in psychiatry. In fact, her mentors told her she should get her feet wet as a bedside nurse in an emergency room first.

While in school, she was required to log a certain amount of hours in psychiatry and did so at Menninger, an in- and outpatient mental health clinic in Houston.

"That was a class that everybody just kind of blows off because nobody really wants to go into psychiatry," Amador said. "And to me, too, it was just another class I had to take."

But then she changed her mind while working in what's called the "Professionals in Crisis" unit.

"I started noticing that they had a condition that was hard to control or cope with. I started to see that it's like any other condition like if you have a cardiac failure or diabetes or things like that," she said.

She moved to Victoria because her husband got a job offer.

"I love Victoria. Houston is very busy, which I like, too, but now that I have three kids who are all in school, I don't think I could be doing what I'm doing here in Houston," Amador said.

Amador thinks the community should better provide the homeless with necessities and work toward ending the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

"I still have patients who say, 'Oh, my mom didn't want me to come,'" Amador said. "It could be your best friend that's sitting next to you in the lunch room. You don't know what she's going through on the inside or at home. Let's make them aware that it's OK to get help."

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Former Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest worked for the Victoria Advocate from August 2012-September 2019, first as the courts reporter and then as the environment/investigations reporter. Read her work now at www.jessicapriest.me.

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