What is a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)?

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By Rachel Schneider



Table of Contents
What Does a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Do?
Frequently Asked Questions About Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners
Education and Experience Requirements For PMHNPs
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners Licensing
Skills and Duties of Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

What Does a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Do?

Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) focus on helping their patients cope with different psychiatric disorders and illnesses, including mood disorders, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression.

These professionals track their patient's progress before and during care to provide holistic, high-quality care. PMHNPs can consider job opportunities across different settings, such as private practices, correctional facilities, and mental health facilities. Before they can become an NP, each nurse must first earn a master's degree in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice.

Nurse practitioners (NPs), including PMHNPs, enjoy annual mean wages of $110,030, with the highest salary opportunities in the personal care services industry. Physician's offices offer the highest levels of employment and the highest concentration of employment for the occupation.


Frequently Asked Questions About Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners

Can a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Prescribe Medication?

Prescriptive authority varies depending on the state. PMHNPs can prescribe drugs in most states, but others require NPs to work under a collaborative agreement or the direct supervision of a licensed physician. Professionals should review their state-specific requirements to understand their responsibilities.

Where Do Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners Work?

PMHNPs can work in independent practices, psychiatric hospitals, and dedicated mental health units within public and private hospitals. Depending on the setting, these NPs experience different salary opportunities and job growth figures.

What Job Can I Get As A Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?

PMHNPs work with patients who need mental health treatment. These professionals can work with different patient populations, including pediatric and geriatric. Nurses in the discipline often work with all types of patients throughout their careers.

Are There Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs Online?

Nursing students can pursue their degrees online at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Aspiring PMHNPs can often explore specialization opportunities at the graduate level. Many programs offer the PMHNP discipline as a specialization through a flexible, online format.

What Does a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Do?

PMHNPs focus on several job responsibilities, including evaluating and diagnosing patients, along with treating them with psychotherapy. These NPs often prescribe medication and focus on a holistic approach to healthcare. PMHNPs diagnose mental health issues, including substance abuse, anxiety, and depression.

What Is the Difference Between PMHNPs and Psychologists?

PMHNPs hold master's or doctoral degrees in nursing as advanced practice registered nurses. Psychologists are experts in diagnostic testing with Ph.D.- or Psy.D-level education, while PMHNPs interpret tests and prescribe medication.


Education and Experience Requirements For PMHNPs

To become a PMHNP, candidates must start the process by satisfying educational requirements. Each aspiring PMHNP must hold an active RN license. To obtain an RN license, an applicant must earn an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor's degree in nursing. In addition to an RN license, each PMHNP candidate must hold a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP).

Degree-seekers can consider online program opportunities at both the master's and doctoral levels. These online opportunities often feature asynchronous formats, allowing learners to complete their coursework on their own schedules. Students enrolled in online programs benefit from the flexibility that enables them to continue working as they earn their degrees.

Students enrolled in online programs benefit from the flexibility that enables them to continue working as they earn their degrees.

While applicants do not need to earn a degree specifically focused on mental health nursing care, many programs at the graduate level allow degree-seekers the opportunity to pursue a specialization in psychiatric-mental health, preparing them with the specific skills and knowledge needed to pursue careers in the discipline.

After earning a graduate degree in nursing, aspiring professionals must obtain their psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner credential from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Nurses must also meet all state requirements for NPs.

During the national certification process, each candidate must complete and pass a credentialing exam to demonstrate their competencies. Depending on the state they practice in, the requirements for maintaining licensure and certification can differ.


Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners Licensing

The National Council of State Boards for Nursing (NCSBN) regulates nursing licensure in the United States. NCSBN ensures all licensed nurses practice at the highest quality of healthcare service. Specific licensing requirements, such as educational criteria, renewal information, and continuing education requirements can differ depending on the state.

An individual interested in becoming a PMHNP must first obtain an RN license. The RN licensing process requires candidates to hold an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. All states in the nation require RN candidates to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain licensure.

In addition to holding an active RN license, PMHNP candidates must earn a graduate degree in nursing. Most candidates pursue an MSN, although some choose to earn a DNP.

Once they satisfy the educational criteria, candidates can pursue national certification in the PMHNP discipline. To maintain licensure, professionals must complete the state-specific steps to renew their RN licenses. Some states require renewal every 1-2 years, and most include continuing education requirements, as well. PMHNPs must renew their certification every five years, which includes completing 75 continuing education hours along with 120 preceptor hours, two or more years of professional experience, 1,000 practice hours, six academic credits, or an evidence-based quality improvement project.


Skills and Duties of Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

Responsible for helping patients cope with psychiatric disorders, psychiatric nurse practitioners provide treatment for disorders, including ADHD, mood disorders, and anxiety. These NPs evaluate patients before and during their care to monitor their progress and administer medications as needed.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners often collaborate with psychiatrists to provide the widest scope of care possible to patients. These NPs should hold strong communication skills to work effectively with other medical professionals and patients. They should also possess a strong sense of empathy to understand their patients and provide specialized care.


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