JAANUU » Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner: All You Need to Know Before Becoming One

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner: All You Need to Know Before Becoming One

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Have you or your loved ones ever experienced a mental health crisis? 

If so, you know how important it is to receive calm, compassionate healthcare. And even if you haven’t, you’re still likely aware that poor care can worsen or even accelerate a mental health crisis. 

That’s where psychologist nurse practitioners come in. Their unique training can save the day.

If you’re interested in specializing in this career, here’s a quick explanation of how to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner and the salary and duties you should expect.

What is a psychiatric nurse practitioner?


Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners typically work in hospitals and inpatient facilities and are trained in the primary care of patients struggling with mental and emotional imbalances. They’re experts in assisting with long-term mental illnesses and any immediate concerns stemming from traumatic events. 

Compassion and empathy are musts here. Patients can become agitated or feel unheard when voicing their concerns, especially if you don’t pair your technical competencies with a gentle bedside manner. This agitation puts themselves and others at risk. 

Although this career requires a comprehensive education before landing your first job, mental health care is always in demand; your nurse psychologist salary will handsomely compensate you for it. 

What does a psychiatric nurse practitioner do?

As with all advanced practice registered nurses, you’ll be responsible for a handful of tasks on a day-to-day basis. These tasks include:

  • Screening incoming patients for signs of mental illness, trauma, or substance abuse
  • Using screening methods to diagnose patient conditions 
  • Helping patients cope with the side effects of trauma
  • Liaising with a patient’s family members to handle outpatient care (especially if the patient is a minor)
  • Guiding patients on how to meet their mental health needs
  • Overseeing crisis intervention and case management

Higher up in the chain of experience, some psychiatric nurses also:

  • Prescribe medication
  • Provide group or individual therapy to patients
  • Help your colleagues develop health care policies for the patients at your facility
  • Make referrals to other healthcare professionals for treatment 

Psychiatric nurses treat mental health conditions like PTSD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and personality disorders. The personal skills that are essential for this delicate, emotionally taxing work include:

  • Showing empathy and compassion
  • Acting with diplomacy and tact when communicating with a patient’s family members
  • The ability to remain calm during a crisis

Like most nurses, you’ll need to wear a uniform to work and may have to conform to a reasonably rigid dress code. For more information, read up on the meaning behind medical scrub colors and how they can impact your career.

Where do psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners work?

Mental health crises or chronic conditions often require robust facilities to assist people in distress. Because of this, these specialized nurses usually work in psychiatric hospitals or the psychiatric wing of a generalized facility. 

However, hospitals aren’t the only places to find psychiatric nurse practitioners.

You’ll also find psychologist nurse practitioners working in community centers in suburban areas, too. Jobs at a correctional facility or as a full-time staff member at an outpatient clinic that focuses on treating a particular ailment. Positions in academic settings like a university, where you’ll help stressed-out students navigate this new, complex stage of their lives, are also options.


Additionally, you’ll find career options at external facilities designed for drop-in patients, like homeless or domestic violence shelters. Wherever there’s a need, you’ll find a psychiatric nurse—and this position can be challenging, so you should consider giving them a simple nurse gift as a thank you or a handy gift card to buy new scrubs. After all, if you’re considering this career for yourself, you may already know someone who works in the field. 

Psychologist nurse practitioner certifications 

If you’re familiar with the basics of nursing education, you’ll know what certifications you’ll need to launch your career. 

First, you’ll require a nursing-specific Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an American Nurses Credentialing Center-approved school. Without this foundational block, you won’t be able to complete your NCLEX-RN certification to become a registered nurse (RN). 

After completing your coursework and passing your evaluations, you’ll receive your accreditation. However, a BSN isn’t enough to earn the title of a psychiatric nurse practitioner. To complete your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), you’ll need at least two years of relevant work experience in your field.

Afterward, you must earn your next certification via the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certification process (PMHNP-BC).

Requirements for this stage of certification include:

  • A valid nursing license
  • A master’s degree, at a minimum—some require a doctoral degree (DNP)
  • A set number of supervised clinical hours
  • Recommended graduate-level courses in advanced psychopharmacology and psychotherapy

As always, you’ll need to wear scrubs and know how to style underscrubs when completing your clinical experience. 

What is the career outlook for a psychiatric nurse practitioner?

Overall, the outlook for working in psychiatric nursing is promising. Nurse practitioners are paid well, raking in an average of  $117,670 per year, but the profession is also expanding at a healthy rate, with a projected growth of 45% from 2020 to 2030.


As the stigma around mental illnesses decreases, demand for mental health services will grow. But this high pay rate exists for a reason. Psychiatry is physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding in every way. So it’s no surprise that your schooling will be extensive.

If a career in psychiatric nursing sounds rewarding, be sure to use nursing student discounts to stock up on the supplies you need to get through those degrees. Also, you may want to read up on nursing school entrance exams to learn about the requirements of your educational path.

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