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Steps To Become A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Interested in learning how to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner? Use this guide to learn about educational and credential requirements, career prospects, and salary prospects.
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Mental health nurse practitioners (NPs) help patients manage a variety of mental conditions, including mood disorders, trauma, and substance use disorders.
This overview provides useful information on how to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, describing the educational, licensure, and certification requirements necessary to enter this rewarding field. Prospective psychiatric NPs can also learn about career and salary possibilities.
Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who assess, diagnose, and treat the mental health needs of individuals and families across the lifespan, including mental and substance abuse disorders. Depending on the state, PMHNPs work either independently or in collaboration with doctors and other healthcare specialists.
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The scope of duties of PMHNPs typically includes performing mental health assessments, diagnosing patients, and completing psychiatric evaluations. They also identify risk factors and develop care plans. PMHNPs may provide psychotherapy or crisis intervention and administer medication.
These NPs follow a holistic approach to healthcare, informing and educating patients and their families about a variety of mental health issues. Common responsibilities of psychiatric NPs include diagnosing mental health problems, such as mood disorders, anxiety/trauma disorders, substance use disorders, psychiatric disorders, and neurodevelopmental disorders.
As with all advanced nursing roles, PMHNPs must complete several steps before entering practice as a psychiatric primary care provider, psychiatrist, consultant, or educator. These nurses must hold a valid registered nurse (RN) license in the state where they intend to practice, a bachelor’s degree, and national board certification as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.
The first step in how to become a PMHNP starts with a BSN degree. A traditional baccalaureate nursing degree program typically takes four years of full-time study. However, RNs who hold an associate degree in nursing (ADN) can shorten the time needed to complete their BSN by enrolling in an RN-to-BSN bridge program.
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Students with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field can pursue an accelerated BSN program that allows them to complete all of their undergraduate nursing requirements in 18 months or less.
State nursing regulatory boards use the NCLEX to determine eligibility for nursing licensure. To practice in their intended state, registered nurses must apply to the state board and pass the NCLEX-RN.
A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), which serves as the minimum educational requirement for nurse practitioners, typically takes two years. MSN programs include curriculum and nursing clinical.
Students who want to expand their professional options as clinical nurse leaders or pursue a nurse education career should consider a doctoral program, which can take up to six years to complete.
Why Become A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?
To apply for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner board certification (PMHNP-BC), practitioners must earn their graduate degree and have 500 supervised hours working as a PMHNP. The PMHNP-BC exam, administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), provides a valid and reliable assessment of clinical knowledge and skills.
Each state nursing board establishes its own specific psychiatric nurse practitioner requirements for licensure in addition to certification. Once all qualifications are met, PMHNPs can apply for licensure through their state board of nursing.
Common workplace settings for psychiatric NP jobs include hospitals, primary care clinics, and private practices. These professionals will also find opportunities in telehealth nursing, college healthcare centers, and public health agencies.
Although specific duties depend on the workplace environment, PMHNPs provide services to a diverse population struggling with conditions such as substance use disorders, mood and anxiety disorders, depression, and behavioral problems related to dementia.
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The time required to become a PMHNP depends on the student’s educational background, their nursing experience, and whether they enroll full or part-time. Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), the terminal degree for this field, can take up to 10 years from undergraduate through graduate studies.
While students can earn their RN license after earning an ADN or BSN degree, those who plan to enter advanced practice nursing careers, including PMHNPs, need to complete their BSN before enrolling in a graduate nursing program.
An MSN degree is the minimum educational requirement for all APRNs. A master’s leads to career paths in clinical specialties and non-clinical roles, while requiring less of a time commitment than a DNP.
As the demand for primary and preventive care continues to expand, the DNP degree prepares nurses to take on many of the roles previously held by physicians. Graduates can pursue advanced clinical leadership roles and teaching and research positions in nursing schools.
Post Master’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certificate
All NPs must obtain national board certification in their chosen specialty. Specialties include adult-gerontology, acute care, family practice, etc.
PMHNPs must be certified in their chosen specialty: psychiatric mental health. While all registered nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN to obtain state licensure, an equivalent national exam for NP licensure does not exist. In most states, board certification serves as a requirement for state licensure. For PMHNPs, these two credentials together demonstrate mastery of advanced nursing skills and clinical experience.
After passing the certification exam, PMHNPs must also apply for state licensure. Most state boards of nursing use national board certification as one of the requirements for obtaining an NP license. An NP license allows an APRN to work under a state regulated scope of practice.
Depending on the state, NPs may either require collaboration with a physician or they may practice independently without collaboration. In general, NPs, including PMHNPs, can perform physical exams, prescribe medications, and order diagnostic tests. In most states, NP licenses must be renewed every 3-5 years.
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Certifications administered by national certification boards, such as ANCC, help nurses expand their career prospects and marketability. ANCC offers several NP certifications including one in mental health nursing. PMHNPs can renew this credential after five years by maintaining their state license and meeting continuing education and other renewal requirements for nurses.
The pediatric primary care mental health specialist credential requires professionals to hold their APRN license and complete certification in a subspecialty that works with the pediatric population. In addition, they must complete at least 2,000 hours of child behavioral, mental health and developmental experience over five years. Thirty hours of continuing education is required or a graduate-level course worth two or more credits. They must then pass a certification exam consisting of 150 questions.
The US The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median annual earnings of $117,670 for all APRNs, including PMHNPs. While BLS statistics do not break down nursing salaries by specialty, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners reports a median salary of $137,000 for PMHNPs, making them one of the highest-paying NP specialties.
After completing a master’s or doctoral level program in psychiatry, psychiatric NPs can find employment opportunities in many settings, including private practice, corporations, and correctional facilities.
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Psychiatric NPs may also consult with businesses and communities, providing a range of services. Depending on state practice laws, they may establish their own private practice. They have to research the requirements and prepare financial plans to become an effective business.
Psychiatric NPs can focus their careers anywhere that allows them to evaluate patients, make diagnoses, implement treatment plans, and order diagnostic tests to monitor the treatment of patients dealing with mental illnesses.
In the most common workplace settings for PMHNPs, these departments rely on psychiatric NPs to assess patients and provide primary care, develop patient care plans with physicians and other healthcare personnel, and supervise nursing assistants and RNs.
Psychiatric NPs in private practice evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients, develop and implement care plans, and prescribe medications. PMHNPs in these settings work under the supervision of a physician and/or psychiatrist, or they may operate their own practice independently, depending on the state.
How To Become A Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Social services that employ PMHNPs include agencies, schools, prisons, public health clinics, and shelters. They comprise a diverse client population.
Depending on their practice authority, these nurses may work independently or under the supervision of physicians or psychiatrists. They can provide counseling to people recovering from trauma, domestic violence, child abuse and depression. They may offer individual or group therapy and prescribe medication.
The professional association of psychiatric mental health nurses, APNA provides professional services and continuing education opportunities for professionals in the field.
Established as a result of the amalgamation of four independent psychiatric mental health nursing organizations, ISPN supports professionals worldwide.
What Does It Take To Be A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?
ANA’s mission is to improve patient care by supporting individuals and organizations to advance the nursing profession. They also offer continuing education, certification and professional development opportunities throughout the field.
Professionals in the psychiatric NP field can access the job search function on Nurse.com
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