What is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

A psychiatric nurse practitioner provides mental health assistance to individuals with emotional and psychological issues.

These nurses are among the most well-educated and advanced healthcare workers in the nursing profession.

As a result, they perform various high-level duties, including assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental health issues.

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners possess an  MSN or DNPdegree and board certification.

It enables them to operate in various health settings, including hospitals, practitioner offices, and mental health facilities.

The following sections cover a nurse practitioner’s responsibilities, work setting, salary, and career path.

What Do Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners Do?

Psychiatric nurse practitioners help patients with various mental health disorders, illnesses, and ailments.

It includes depression, mood disorders, substance abuse, schizophrenia, and cognitive ailments.

They also help people with anxiety, autism, panic disorders, bipolar disorder, ADHD, depression, PTSD, OCD, and postpartum depression.

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners have extensive education and training in their specialization.

It enables them to assess, diagnose and treat their patient’s mental conditions using various healthcare approaches.

They also educate patients on coping strategies, prescribe medications, and develop treatments to improve their health.

These specialists work with a broad range of patient ages and demographics.

For instance, they treat adolescents, young adults, and older adults.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Duties:

  • Conduct mental health assessments
  • Perform physical health assessments
  • Review patient medical histories
  • Create treatment plans
  • Perform psychotherapy
  • Prescribe medications
  • Consult patients and their families
  • Research new practices, drugs, and treatment options

They also perform other necessary mental health services to ensure patients receive the care they need to thrive.

Where Do Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners Work?

Psychiatric nurse practitioners work in various mental healthcare and direct patient care settings.

It includes colleges, physician offices, hospitals, nursing homes, independent practices, and urgent care centers.

Psychiatric mental health nurses may also work for government agencies and the military providing services to soldiers.

The broad diversity of healthcare settings enables these specials to treat specific demographics and mental health needs.

Areas of Operation:


The median salary in the United States for psychiatric nurse practitioners is $112,810 based on Salary.com estimates.

That said, the incomes these specialists earn in a given year depend on several factors.

It includes their education, training, employer incentives, location, and how many hours they work.

The most significant factors determining a nurse practitioner’s salary are their work location and experience.

For instance, psychiatric nurse practitioners in New York earn approximately $135,703 annually.

However, those working in Wyoming earn an annual salary of roughly $100400.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners with extensive education also earn higher salaries than newer workers.

It’s important to mention these are just median incomes, and some psychiatric nurse practitioners make significantly more.

How To Become A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is relatively straightforward.

However, obtaining the necessary certifications and licensure requires years of education, discipline, and hard work.

The following section discusses the steps one must take to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

1. Earn Your GED or Diploma

Becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner starts with getting your GED or diploma in high school.

Most universities require students to obtain one of these certificates to enter their programs.

After earning your GED or diploma, apply to college and complete the take the necessary nursing school prerequisites.

2. Complete the Schools Prerequisite Courses

The prerequisite courses students must complete depends on the nursing school they want to join.

Each university has specific credit and GPA requirements students must meet to enter the program.

However, English, math, anatomy and physiology, biology, and chemistry courses are relatively standard.

After completing the prerequisites, you’ll want to apply to a nursing school.

Many students apply to multiple programs to maximize their acceptance odds and reduce competition.

Applying to an accredited nursing school is beneficial because transferring credits to other programs is more accessible.

It’s also more painless to receive funding for the program due to the school’s accreditation. 

3. Join a Nursing Program 

There are two primary nursing programs students may complete obtaining their nursing license.

It includes a two-year associate degree and a four-year bachelor of science in nursing.

The two-year program enables students to complete their course within 18 – 24 months.

It’s excellent for those who want to quickly enter the field, gain experience, and earn money.

However, those interested in becoming psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners want to pursue a BSN degree.

Most post-graduate programs require registered nurses to possess a BSN to apply for the program.

At the end of the four-year program, students must pass an NCLEX-RN exam to obtain their license and start working.

4. Gain Work Experience

Most post-graduate programs require nurses to obtain 1 – 3 years of work experience before entering the program.

It ensures registered nurses understand their profession and are confident they want to pursue further education.

It also helps them determine which specialization they want to focus on in the post-graduate program.

Once you’ve acquired the necessary training and experience, you can apply to an MSN-PMHNP program.

5. Join a Post Graduate Program

The MSN-PMHNP program focuses on mental health teaching to train students for careers as psychiatric nurse practitioners.

Those who enter the program obtain classroom and real-world clinical training to prepare them for their careers.

With that said, some MSN-PMHNP programs offer online schooling.

It enables registered nurses with less flexible schedules to continue working while pursuing their education.

The post-graduate program takes approximately 2 – 3 years to complete.

Students must also complete 600 hours of clinical training before earning their psychiatric nurse practitioner licensure.

Obtain Certification and Licensure

Once students complete the PMHNP program and clinical hours, they must pass a national board certification exam.

It enables them to obtain their license and begin working as psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners!

Why Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners Are Essential

A wide diversity of individuals in the United States suffer from various mental health issues.

As a result, they need specialists to help them manage, alleviate and reverse their psychological health problems.

Those with untreated mental health hardships experience a wide range of long-term issues.

It includes depression, reduced activity levels, a lower lifespan, and a higher degree of medical complications.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners ensure patients receive the assistance they need to recover mentally and lead healthy lives.

Without their expertise, many individuals wouldn’t receive the healthcare and treatments they need to improve.


Psychiatric mental health nurses assist individuals, families, and grounds with mental health conditions.

These healthcare providers work with mental health professionals to complete various essential tasks.

It includes assessing and evaluating dysfunction, administering medications, and helping individuals manage their condition.

They also offer basic counseling, and crisis intervention, and support people with self-care activities.

Unlike psychiatric nurse practitioners, mental health nurses are not mental health professionals.

As a result, they cannot prescribe medications, diagnose conditions, or act as primary care providers.

Instead, they support mental health experts who manage and treat individuals, families, and groups mental health issues.