Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner

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In the United States, a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse trained to provide a wide range of mental health services to patients and families in a variety of settings. PMHNPs diagnose, conduct therapy, and prescribe medications for patients who have psychiatric disorders, medical organic brain disorders or substance abuse problems. They are licensed to provide emergency psychiatric services, psychosocial and physical assessment of their patients, treatment plans, and manage patient care.[1] They may also serve as consultants or as educators for families and staff. The PMHNP has a focus on psychiatric diagnosis, including the differential diagnosis of medical disorders with psychiatric symptoms, and on medication treatment for psychiatric disorders.

A PMHNP is trained to practice autonomously. In 25 states, nurse practitioners (NPs) already diagnose and treat without supervision of a Psychiatrist[citation needed]. This is in contrast to 2008, when nurse practitioners could autonomously diagnose and treat in 23 states, and could only prescribe in 12 states. In other states, PMHNPs have reduced or restricted practice, requiring a collaborative agreement with a physician expert, a standard scope of practice signed by a physician, or other limits on practice or prescribing.[2] In these states, they still practice independently to diagnose disorders, provide therapy and prescribe medications.[3] Titles and functions vary by state, but usually NP, CRNP, "APRN," or ARNP are used.


After completing a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner degree requires two to five additional years of training. At minimum, the candidate must complete an approved Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) advanced nursing education program.

Individuals who already have a bachelor's degree in another field can attend one of many accelerated BSN programs before entering an approved MSN or DNP program. Accelerated BSN programs typically take one and a half to two years after completion of prerequisite coursework. A new training modality is the Master's entry/graduate entry to practice nursing program model, which is specifically designed for those with bachelor's degrees in non-nursing fields. Entrants to these programs typically spend one to two years completing Bachelor's level nursing classes to allow them to sit for the nursing board exam NCLEX-RN, and then go straight into an additional 2–3 years of graduate level coursework. This is followed by clinical rotations of at least 600 hours to complete a MSN degree, 1000 hours for the DNP. Students must then successfully pass a Board examination to practice as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). PMHNP-BC is the ANCC American Nurses Credentialing Center designated title for a board certified Advanced Practice Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

The Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is the planned entry level degree for advanced practice registered nurses according to the ANCC. However, no state has actually initiated any laws regarding the DNP as the minimum degree. It is expected that current Master's-prepared nurses will be "grandfathered' into the new system and as long as they keep their certification current, they will not be required to pursue further education except the required continuing education.

There are many schools that offer the graduate education required for this profession. Notable schools with Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse practitioner programs are Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Yale School of Nursing, Saint Louis University, University of California-San Francisco, University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University School of Nursing.[4] A listing of PMHNP programs by state can be found online at the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA).[5][6]

The cost of education can vary greatly. Programs at public universities are typically less expensive for state residents than out-of-state-residents. For example, at UCSF the cost for the Masters program with in-state tuition is approximately $12,245 a year; for an out-of-state student the tuition is $24,798.[7] In addition, programs at public universities tend to be less expensive than programs at private universities.

See also


  1. ^ "Psychiatric Mental Health NP Competencies" (PDF). American Psychiatric Nurses Association. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2013-06-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "FAQs about Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurses - American Psychiatric Nurses Association". Retrieved 2016-11-08.
  4. ^ The State of California. (2007, January 22). California Board of Registered Nursing Retrieved February 9, 2007, from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-01-24. Retrieved 2007-02-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Graduate Programs by State - American Psychiatric Nurses Association".
  6. ^ "The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)".
  7. ^ University of California, San Francisco. (2007, February 6). MS Specialty: Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nursing - UCSF School of Nursing Retrieved February 9, 2007, from