Mandi Ryan, MSN, RN
Director, Healthcare Innovation
Growing up in Texarkana, Mandi Ryan's childhood dream was to work in healthcare. The first in her family to go to college, she earned an undergraduate degree in biology from Ouachita Baptist University followed by a registered nursing diploma from the Baptist School of Nursing in Little Rock.
Her assumption throughout high school and college was that she would focus on physical health. And indeed, she spent the first seven years of her career in nursing units primarily focused on cardiovascular and pulmonary patients before a new job led to a lifelong calling.
Having moved to Clarksville in 2007, Ryan took a position as a night shift nurse supervisor with Correct Care Solutions where she developed and managed quality improvement, safety and infection control programs at the Montgomery County Jail. "Working in corrections was my first experience working with individuals with mental illness ... and my passion for integrated health began," she explained.
"It really emphasized to me how a lot of individuals didn't have access to the quality care they needed," Ryan continued. "A lot of arrests could have been avoided if those needs were met." She saw firsthand how patients who weren't on their behavioral medications or who had addiction issues and few resources were at heightened risk to spiral downward both physically and mentally.
Ryan credits Melinda Stephens, RN, who was an administrator with Correct Care, with helping foster her personal development as an administrator alongside her growing interest in integrated care. "Her leadership skills and values inspired me to continue to grow and pursue higher education," noted Ryan, who earned her MSN from Walden University in 2015.
About the time Ryan began working on her master's with a focus in administration, she made the move to Nashville and further honed her clinical skills in behavioral health by accepting a position at TriStar Centennial's Parthenon Pavilion as a psychiatric charge nurse in the Intensive Transitional Program before making the move to Centerstone, one of the nation's largest not-for-profit providers of community-based behavioral health, in 2014. "I love that in nursing I have had the opportunity to pursue a wide variety of specialties from open heart surgery and pediatrics to corrections and behavioral health. Each one has expanded my knowledge and experiences to further develop my craft," she stated.
Deploying a full range of skills to find innovative solutions to expand care is desperately needed as Ryan said far too many individuals with mental illness still face barriers to accessing needed services. "I am very passionate about individuals with mental illness receiving quality integrated and preventative care that can reduce their mortality rate," she said. "When their physical health is better, their behavioral health improves ... and when their behavioral health is better, the physical health improves. You have to look at the whole person. That helps us reduce unnecessary hospitalizations, unnecessary ER visits, reduce cost and improve quality of life."
As administrative leader at Centerstone for Health Link - a state program to coordinate services for TennCare members with the highest behavioral health needs - Ryan has helped establish a health home for thousands of patients in Centerstone's 21 outpatient clinics in Tennessee. She also leads several organizational initiatives to foster greater coordination with primary care and is project director for two Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration (PBHCI) grants.
A believer in practicing what she preaches, Ryan makes sure she integrates physical and mental well being into her own life by spending as much time as possible with her "wonderful husband and three awesome kids." Between she and Christopher, a computer consultant, the couple has three children - Sophie, Madelyn and Graham - ranging in age from eight to 13. In addition to staying busy with the kids' activities, Ryan said the whole family loves a good game night. "We try to have that at least once a week," she said with a laugh.
Recharging with family and friends is critical, as Ryan knows there is much more work to be done in improving access, quality and outcomes for those with serious mental illness while reducing costs. "There has been improvement, but there is still more work to be done. Healthcare is always changing ... you must be willing to change and transform to meet the needs of the agency and patients," she concluded.