The Role of Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners in Healthcare

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Written By Charlotte Miller

With the increased prevalence of mental health disorders, it is anticipated that psychiatric nurse practitioners will play a more prominent role in providing healthcare across all practice settings. Psychiatric nurse practitioners are registered nurses with additional education and training who work as primary care providers for those suffering from any kind of mental illness.

They can diagnose mental disorders, prescribe medications, and treat the patient through psychotherapy. Their role is crucial because they often serve as part of a team that includes physicians and therapists.

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A  Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) can become nationally certified by achieving the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) certification. This means they will have to work with patients across different age groups, including children and older adults, in addition to more common adult cases like adolescents or adults who are not aging parents themselves. 

In this blog post, we are going to explore the role of Mental Health Nurse Practitioners in the healthcare industry and their future prospects:

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Degree Requirements

To become a registered nurse, you will either need an Associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) from accredited nursing programs. Nurses with the ADN degree must complete additional steps of completing their education and earning both a bachelor’s as well as master’s degrees at once by entering into an accelerated RN – MS program, which lets them do just this. For further specialization, they can also pursue Doctor of Nursing Practice via BSN to DNP programs online to climb up the corporate ladder. 

Nurses who are considering going back to school for their master’s degree in nursing may need some work experience before they start. Most programs require at least two years of relevant previous employment, but it is ultimately up to the individual whether or not this option suits them best.

To become a Mental Health Practitioner, a candidate must spend 500 clinic hours in an accredited psychiatric-mental health nursing program. In addition, there are three separate, comprehensive graduate-level courses you need to include to become eligible to apply for a PMHNP-BC Certification, which include: 

  • Advanced physiology and pathophysiology principles that apply to everyone
  • Holistic understanding of health assessment, human systems, techniques, concepts, and approaches
  • Part of pharmacology, which includes all aspects and branches—from the study on how drugs work in our body to their uses

The applicant is also subjected to be courses in health promotion and maintenance, differential diagnosis of diseases as well as medication use. They must have working knowledge on the latest tactics for disease management, including pharmacological interventions. Last but not least, candidates are required to gain exposure to at least two psychotherapeutic treatments. 

The above-mentioned process prepares the candidate enough to appear in  Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification (PMHNP-BC), including Scientific Foundation, Advanced Practical Skills, Diagnosis, Prescription, Treatment, Psychotherapy, Miscellaneous Theories, Ethical and Corporate Law. 

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Role of Mental Health Nurse Practitioners  

The psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is a trained professional who can provide care for patients with mental illness. This person has been qualified in assessment, diagnosis, and evaluation, often providing many services as doctors do. Nurse practitioners in states with full practice authority can prescribe medications, perform all surgeries and treat patients throughout their hospital stay if necessary. 

For the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, their role may include a series of steps in patient care which includes: 

  • Carry out mental health assessments and procedures tailored for the individual
  • Diagnose psychiatric illness properly to treat patients
  • Educate the patient and family about the background of the illness
  • Prescribe a treatment plan to help patients feel better
  • Conduct psychotherapy sessions by reviewing information and interpreting any problems that arise
  • Coordinate services with other healthcare components, ensuring patients get the attention and medical care they need

Future Prospects

A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is a supporting role that aids patients and their families. With the growing number of nurse practitioners across all fields, it is no surprise that there are high projections in mental health as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are several increments expected in the coming decade concerning the demands and jobs projects in nursing: 

  • 55.8% increase in the mental health practitioners’ offices  (excluding physicians) 
  • Up to 25 % demand in mental health OPDs and drug abuse centers
  • Approximately 14.3% increase in psychiatric and drug abuse hospitals
  • About 31% rise in residential psychiatric health and substance abuse facilities

The BLS’s 45% job growth projection for nurse practitioners stands well above their 4 percent projection of all other professions. It also outpaces the predicted 7% increase in registered nurses by 2029, which is much higher than what’s expected from this industry alone.

Salaries for nurse practitioners vary depending on factors such as years of experience and location. In May 2019, median annual wages ranged from a low of $105,830 for those who work in psychiatric nursing to a high of around $119,500 for general medical personnel handling internal medicine cases.

Final Thoughts

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners play a pivotal role in the healthcare field. They are experts in understanding psychiatric and mental disorders, as well as their treatments. The future looks promising for these professionals who have been steadily increasing in number over the years due to the growing demand.

While it is essential to understand the diagnosis and proper course of care, some factors should not be overlooked. Psychiatric health care often requires an individualized approach because one size does not fit all in this area. Many patients need lifelong help, which can sometimes seem difficult or frustrating since finding out what works best for patients comes down to what they feel comfortable with more than anything else.

If you’re considering becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, be sure to read more about what they do before making your decision so that you can decide if it’s right for you!   

We hope we’ve provided some insight on how these professionals work with patients from both perspectives – those being treated by them and those treating them.