Psychiatric nurse practitioners or mental health nurses are advanced-practice registered nurses that provide comprehensive mental health care to patients suffering from behavioral problems and mental health disorders. It is their duty to diagnose and treat patients with mental illnesses and they also provide education and counselling for medial patients and their families. In addition, they may collaborate with doctors or psychiatrists, but generally they don’t have to work under supervision.

Even though their schedule may vary, registered nurses as well as psychiatric nurse practitioners, usually work full-time. Nurses can be scheduled for 8 to 12-hour shifts and they work evenings, nights, and/or weekends. Psychiatric nurse practitioners work in places such as hospitals, clinics, and other mental health centers.

As nurses, they are at risk of contracting infectious diseases from their patients, and as psychiatric caregivers, they stand a risk of getting injured by violent patients. Even though working with mental patients can be rewarding, it is also emotionally taxing and as such, it’s important that individuals who choose this career path are aware of the strong probability of bringing their work home.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners are very important in the field of mental health. The United States of American is currently witnessing an overall shortage of physicians, and psychiatrists are the second most highly recruited physicians after family medicine physicians, according to Forbes. As more Americans seek mental health care with the Affordable Care Act, there simply are not enough psychiatrists available to meet their needs. Psychiatric nurse practitioners can offload some of the demand and provide comprehensive care and treatment for patients suffering from mental health disorders.

How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric Nurse practitioners are advanced-practice registered nurses who have a master’s program in nursing (MSN) or doctoral degree program (DNP). In order to obtain a master’s degree or a doctorate in nursing, a student will first have to complete an accredited nursing program and obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). In order to obtain licensure, you will have to successfully complete the NCLEX-RN. The length of time it takes to earn an MSN depends on the nurse’s starting point: Nursing students enrolled in a BSN program complete in about four years. RN to BSN takes about two years. BSN to MSN takes about two years. BSN to DNP takes three to four years. MSN to DNP takes one to two years.

In addition, online programs as well as classroom programs are available to accommodate students. Both types have their very own advantages and disadvantages on the needs of students, therefore researching individual schools is encouraged.

Nurses who intend to become psychiatrist nurse practitioners and thrive in that should have the following characteristics:

  1. Emotional Intelligence: working with patients that have mental issues can be quite emotionally taxing and as such these nurses must be able to recognize feelings and emotions and deal with them appropriately.
  2. Emotional stability: as a psychiatric nurse, you will come in contact with patients that have suffered from abuse, violence or have been the victim of a crime. Psychiatric nurse practitioners must be able to be level-headed but still demonstrate empathy when dealing with their patients. Demonstrating empathy means having the ability to understand and share the feelings of others based on their frame of reference.

Mental aliments takes time to be cured. There can be a progression in the mental state of a patient during treatment, as well as regression. Psychiatric nurses must reassess and adjust the plan of care as needed to keep patients on the right track.

  1. Accepting and non-judgmental: it is not uncommon among mental patients to have committed crimes or have a skewed view of the world. So, no matter what, you have to be professional when dealing with them. When working with mental health patients, it takes time to build trust. Providers who are unreliable or unavailable have a hard time making progress with mental health patients as building trust can be a prolonged process.

What Are the Roles and Duties of a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

Psychiatric nurses work with different types of patients- some work with children, some with adults, and some with both, or with families. Their Responsibilities include: Taking a medical and psychiatric history, Interviewing patients about symptoms, Assessing for causes of mental illnesses such as: Developmental issues, Genetics, Family dysfunction, Neurological trauma, Diagnosing mental illness, Working with children with behavioral or emotional disorders, Working with patients with mental health disorders, from mild to severe, Assisting older patients with cognitive disorders, Helping patients cope with chronic disease or disability, Counseling and treating patients who have suffered from stress or emotional trauma, victims of abuse, and victims of crime, Conducting counseling sessions for individuals, groups, or families, Managing the care of patients using education, behavioral modification therapy, and medication, Track progress and collaborate with physicians or psychiatrists/psychologists to change the plan of care if need be.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Employment Outlook & Salary

According to Indeed, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners earn an average of $112,464 per year. This figure may vary based on additional certifications held, years of experience, city/state of employment, and a lot more.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t exactly have information specifically for psychiatric nurse practitioners, but because of physician shortage, aging population, and healthcare legislation, demand for nurse practitioners, in general, is expected to rise 31 percent by 2024, which is faster than average. There will be an expected 171,700 job opportunities available by 2024.

Ajaero Tony Martins