U.S. Army Health Clinic Baumholder serves a military community of just over 8,000 people, set in the remote, forested hills of Baumholder, Germany.
In the small community, readiness is essential, both physically and mentally. With over 24 years of service in uniform, Diana Bluthardt now serves as the sole psychiatric nurse practitioner for the community and is committed to enhancing the latter.
Bluthardt, who works at U.S. Army Health Clinic Baumholder’s Behavioral Health Clinic and also serves as a medical provider for the Baumholder Military Community’s Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care program, chose to continue serving in the Army Reserves following more than a decade of active duty commitment. Although many Soldiers who later earn college degrees choose to crossover to commissioned positions, after earning her nursing degree Bluthardt chose to stay enlisted, serving as a combat medic and later a Licensed Practical Nurse before retiring.
“Even though I did get my four-year degree and I’m a registered nurse, I stayed enlisted because I enjoyed what I was doing in the unit,” explains Bluthardt. “It was something different than what I did as a civilian.”
Following her military career, Bluthardt went on to get her nurse practitioner certification specializing in psychiatric and mental health care before being employed by the State of Minnesota.
“It was very difficult to see veterans being committed for mental health, or mental health and substance use,” explains Bluthardt. “Truly, people don’t know what to do with many of the veterans who are struggling.”
Realizing an opportunity existed to help those individuals while they are in uniform led Bluthardt to seek a position within the Department of Defense. She wanted to help better manage mental health in the ranks before it became a larger problem.
According to the Army Public Health Center’s Health of the Force report, 16 percent of Soldiers are diagnosed with one or more behavioral health disorder and 3.7 percent are diagnosed with a substance use disorder.
“(USAHC Baumholder Behavioral Health) utilizes a multidisciplinary approach,” explains Dr. Mark Simpson, a clinical psychologist and chief of USAHC Baumholder Behavioral Health. “We have social workers, psychologists, and a psychiatric nurse practitioner, which is the role (Bluthardt) plays. So we form, oftentimes, a treatment team, viewing and treating patients from different perspectives and different disciplines.”
According to Simpson, out of 10 different providers serving patients at USAHC Baumholder, Bluthardt is the only practitioner who may prescribe psychiatric medications.
“Sometimes medical emergencies come in, and she fields all those emergencies,” said Simpson. “She goes above and beyond, is very dedicated to the patients who she serves and is really an excellent team member.”
While Bluthardt is now totally dedicated to her position as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, she was previously not expecting to be treating mental health full time.
“I did many years as nursing but said I would never do behavioral health or psychiatry. However, I was always drawn to the field and ended up with patients who needed more assistance (than others could offer),” said Bluthardt.
A change in position came while serving in uniform. Following a deployment to Iraq and assigned to a military detention center, Bluthardt was treating patients with mental health illness and says the experience made her reconsidered the effectiveness of mental health care and hasn’t looked back since.
“You know, we’re here to serve. We’re not here to be criticizing or anything, we’re here to serve (service members) and help,” said Bluthardt. “(Behavioral health practitioners) take this job because we want to be here and to give back. These patients are important, the Soldiers are important, the retirees and whoever I see. So I’m glad that I can give back to them.”