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What is a PMHNP?

What is a PMHNP? While its title may seem like a random assortment of letters to some, PMHNPs play a crucial role in healthcare.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP) blend the worlds of nursing and psychiatric mental health to provide assessments, diagnoses and treatments to patients with mental health needs. Those with a PMHNP degree provide advanced psychiatric care while working alongside primary and specialty care providers. Training in such collaboration ensures that patients receive high-quality, holistic healthcare.

The Need for PMHNPs

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics claims healthcare employment is projected to grow faster than any other occupation in the next decade, at about 1.8 million openings per year. Not only is there an employment demand, but there is also a need for mental health professionals to occupy more settings to provide holistic care. The National Institute of Mental Health claims one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness. In the midst of what some could call a “mental health crisis,” an increase in psychiatric care within various healthcare settings appears essential at this point.

However, out of all U.S. nurse practitioners, only 6.5% are certified in psychiatric or mental health. There are various things that a PMHNP can provide that Family Nurse Practitioners (FNP) or other nursing specialists cannot.

What Does a PMHNP Do?

A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner can provide the following:

  • Education for patients and their family
  • Psychotherapy
  • Counseling and mental health treatment for various psychiatric, emotional and behavioral health conditions
  • Prescriptions for medication
  • Preventative care treatments
  • Orders and interpretations of labs, x-rays, and EKGs
  • Diagnoses

As seen above, this list is a comprehensive blend of a psychiatric specialist and a nurse practitioner. This blend creates the holistic approach to healthcare that many need for their healing process. A PMHNP, unlike a psychiatrist, completes undergraduate nursing school plus continued education in psychiatric nursing, providing an in-depth understanding of nursing practices and the body’s relationship with the mind.

While a PMHNP blends many of the nursing and mental health responsibilities, holistic healthcare is best offered when there is as much healthcare collaboration as possible. Often, patients can experience co-occurring psychiatric and physical conditions. It is critical for PMHNPs to work with various other health professionals in this care, for such comorbidity can cause diminished quality of life, an increase in medical complications and, therefore, expenses, and may result in lower levels of life expectancy.

Family nurse practitioners are ready to provide primary care to such patients and can coordinate with other specialists if needed. A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner focuses on patients’ psychiatric and mental health needs while being informed by the elements that affect one’s overall health. PMHNPs can be found in hospitals, clinics, schools, private practices, public health facilities, and primary care settings.

How to Become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Beyond the emotional reward of being part of someone’s restoration process and contributing to the field of healthcare, a career as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is in demand and fiscally rewarding. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2023), the median salary for specialized nurse practitioners was over $125,000.

Begin changing lives and becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner through the following steps:

  • Step 1: Receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Associate’s Degree in Nursing (AND) from an accredited institution.
  • Step 2: Receive your active unencumbered, and unrestricted Registered Nurse license in your state or territory. You can take the RN license exam after completing your degree. You must pass the NCLEX-RN examination to apply for state or territory licensure.
  • Step 3: Apply to a master’s or doctoral PMHNP degree program. Regent University offers an MSN in APRN – PMHNP. This specialized degree advances your nursing skills and helps you meet the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner certification requirements. Similarly, Regent’s DNP in APRN – PMHNP allows nurses to understand their practice at a doctoral level while pursuing PMHNP certification.
  • Step 4: Pass the American Nursing Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) examination for PMHNP. When you pass, you may apply for your state-specific PMHNP certification.

A PMHNP degree is for those who are ready to make a difference in an in-demand industry. Learn more about Regent University’s PMHNP degrees.