Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Role
As described by the National Panel for Psychiatric-Mental Health NP Competencies, the following competencies reflect the current knowledge and scope of practice for psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners. In addition to the basic required competencies of a nurse practitioner, the following are intended as entry-level competency requirements for graduates of either master’s or post master’s PMHNP programs.
As a provider of direct mental health care services, the PMHNP must utilize theoretical, scientific and clinical knowledge to manage health and illness states. He or she must assess a patient’s mental health and focus on health promotion and disease prevention. The PMHNP must use evidence to determine use of screenings and provide lifestyle advice. PMHNPs are also responsible for diagnosing mental illness, interpreting data and facilitating treatment planning, including prescribing medication when needed. Acting as support for patients and their families is also crucial. In addition, these practitioners may assume the role of therapist for their patients and manage the delivery of psychiatric services to their patients.
Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice
Psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners work with mental health patients of all ages, and may specialize in a specific age population. PMHNPs can practice in a variety of locations including, but not limited to, in-patient psychiatric facilities, state psychiatric facilities, correctional facilities, mental health centers, home health locations and schools.
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Salary
Psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner salaries can vary widely depending on several factors. Averaging $97,000, psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner salaries depend on their years of experience, geographic location and the clinical setting. Any additional certifications may also increase their salary.
How to Become a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Eligibility Requirements
There are several steps that must be taken to become a PMHNP. Prior education, certification and clinical practice are among the requirements for being accepted into a nurse practitioner program. Here is a step-by-step path you can take to become a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner.
- 1. Become a registered nurse. In order to apply to a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program, you must have completed a degree in registered nursing and be certified as a registered nurse in a U.S. state or territory. Passing the NCLEX-RN examination is required for certification as a registered nurse. Working one to two years before applying for a nurse practitioner program is highly recommended.
- 2. Apply to PMHNP programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). These programs must be master’s, postgraduate or doctoral programs. More information on psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner programs and coursework requirements can be found below.
- 3. Complete 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours related to the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner role and population.
- 4. Apply to take the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner exam administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to earn your psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner certification. The exam tests comprehension of assessment and diagnostic techniques, pharmacology, theory and more. Final transcripts and proof of education are required. More information about certification can be found at the bottom of this page.
- 5. Apply for state certification as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner in the state where you wish to practice. Go to our state certification pages to learn the requirements and find out how to apply. Many applications can be submitted online.
- 6. Once you have earned your psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner certification, certification must be renewed every five years. In addition to renewing certification through the board, renewal through the state is also required and may require additional fulfillment of continuing education contact hours.
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs
Becoming a psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner requires clinical training in various psychotherapeutic treatment modalities as well as completion of a psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner education program. This is an advanced nursing degree designed for RNs with experience treating the psychiatric and mental health patient population.
Graduates of a psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner program can earn a master’s degree (MSN) or doctorate (DNP) degree in nursing. Completion of these programs prepares graduates to take the national certification exam to become a certified psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). The American Nurses Credentialing Center administers the exam. Eligibility requirements for the exam include clinical training in at least two forms of psychotherapeutic treatment in addition to standard advanced nursing courses, a minimum of 500 hours of supervised time working with the adult psychiatric/mental health patients, and valid RN certification.
The curriculum for psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner programs may include up to 40 credit hours of coursework in advanced nursing topics and specialized psychiatric and mental health topics, and a clinical preceptorship of up to 600 hours. This curriculum is relatively standard across all institutions, as it is designed to meet the eligibility requirements for the PMHNP certification. Admission criteria will vary between universities, and may include a current RN license in the state in which you will be studying, one or two years of relevant work experience and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
The clinical preceptorship component of a psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner program can vary greatly depending on the university. Some programs may only offer experiences in community-based agencies, while others may offer greater flexibility to choose the type of experience that is best aligned with students’ career goals. For example, a student interested in research may find unique research opportunities in a psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner program offered at a well-known research institution.
In terms of core classes, students can expect to study pathogenesis in mental disorders, cognitive behavioral strategies, mental health and aging, neurophysiology, psychological development factors, environmental stressors and more. Other classes students are required to take to graduate and become certified include advanced physiology and pathophysiology, pharmacology and physical assessment.
The psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner program can be completed in two years of full-time study. An additional year of study would be required for the DNP degree. Most universities offer part-time study plans and flexible preceptorships to accommodate working RNs enrolled in the program. There are also alternative and shorter programs available for RNs who already hold a master’s degree.
Online Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs
For working registered nurses who do not want to put their career on pause or uproot their lives to attend a far away on-campus program, online psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner programs can be both a flexible and high-quality option. When looking for an online PMHNP program, make sure that it is high quality, with interactive features such as live classes and excellent placement services that will help you get the most out of your education. Some universities offer online programs that are identical to what they offer on campus, allowing students to earn a degree from a university they know and whose reputation they trust, without having to relocate to attend the program. PMHNP online programs are growing in popularity and are a great way to become a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner.
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification
American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)