With the growing number of people seeking help for their mental health, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a growing amount of professionals are now capable of helping. Gone are the days when you can only turn to psychiatrists and psychologists for help. Today, a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner can also help patients get the treatment that they need.
How exactly can these professionals help and is this a good specialty for you to pursue? Learn more about this profession below.
What is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?
Also referred to as Mental Health Nurse Practitioners or Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP), Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners are advanced practice nurses. As the name suggests, they’re focused on the mental health subfield.
What makes them stand out is the fact that they’re a lot similar to psychiatrists as they can also diagnose and prescribe medications to patients. They can act as therapists and execute treatment procedures for patients who need it.
Most of the time, psychiatric nurse practitioners provide mental health treatment to those with no access to physicians who specialize in the field. They can treat patients with pharmacotherapeutic and psychotherapeutic interventions which allow them to make mental health treatment more accessible.
What They Do
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners perform a whole range of tasks that are more advanced than lots of other nurses. Thanks to their graduate degree, extensive training, and board certification, they’re more than capable of handling various patients’ needs.
Included in the list of their tasks, responsibilities, and capabilities are the following:
- Examine, diagnose, and treat patients
- Develop treatment plans that involve holistic and interdisciplinary techniques
- Prescribe medications (following state laws)
- Maintain patient histories and records
- Analyze treatment methods and their effectiveness
- Offer home-based or outpatient care to patients with chronic or worsening conditions
- Provide consultation services for communities, organizations, and institutions
- Collaborate with physicians and create effective patient referrals
- Teach families how to react and handle the condition of the patient
- Perform pharmacotherapeutic and psychotherapeutic interventions to treat patients
- Work with children with behavioral and emotional disorders
Where They Work
There’s a number of potential work settings for PMHNPs. They can be employed in general and psychiatric hospitals or work in communities. They can also practice privately, work in research, or serve in correctional facilities.
How Much They Make
Being advanced practice nurses, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners can expect to be compensated handsomely. On an average, these professionals can get paid around $90K and more a year. It all depends on the region, facility, and the expertise that they can offer.
What Can You Expect in Being a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?
Those who are eyeing this specialty can expect to perform similar duties that psychologists do. You will need to take the lead in this specialization as you will also be trained to call the shots that should help improve your patient’s condition.
Working in high-stress and high-pressure environments should also be expected by interested parties. Heavy patient loads can happen, some of which will also prove to be difficult to handle. You will need to make critical decisions.
The threat of violence should also be expected if you intend to work in this area. As some patients can be unstable and hostile, there’s always a risk of getting injured.
Work hours depend on where you intend to work. Private practitioners can maintain regular office hours but others might need to do shifts or be on call.
You should also expect to be challenged in this area. Everything can be worth it in the end, though, as it can also be a very rewarding line of work.
How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?
To become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you’ll need an MSN or DNP degree from an accredited institution. You’ll also need to be a licensed RN and get certified as an advanced practice registered nurse.
To do this, there are two certification exams offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center available. What you need to take depends on the concentration of your graduate degree. One will let you work with adults and the other will give you a wider scope as a family specialist.
Those who got certified as Family Psychiatric & Mental Health Nurse Practitioners can also get a specialty certification that will let them work with kids. They can take the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board and become Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialists.
Certifications for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners are good for five years. After which, you’ll need to renew your certificate through professional development, re-testing, 1000 hours of practice, and other options.
Nursing Organizations Associated with Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners
These are the organizations that provide representation for all psychiatric health nurses:
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association
- International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses
- American Association of Nurse Practitioners
If you’re interested in this line of work but want to know other options, there are other specialties that you can explore:
- Developmental Disability Nursing
- Domestic Violence Nursing
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Substance Abuse Nursing
- Doctor of Nursing Practice
- Family Nurse Practitioner