Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner

The Growing Demand for Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners 

With a growing demand for mental healthcare in the United States, now is the perfect time to upgrade your NP career to that of a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). With this extra certification, you could assess and treat psychiatric conditions and provide mental health counseling to patients in a wide range of practice settings.  

Here’s an overview of the roles and opportunities for PMHNPs.  

What is a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner? 

A PMHNP is someone who provides advanced care to patients with mental health disorders and specializes in psychiatry. PMHNPs may assess, diagnose, and treat psychiatric conditions, including, in many states, prescribing and managing medications. PMHNPs may also provide behavioral therapy, talk therapy, and counseling services. 

Related: Personality Disorders: Clinical Pearls for Primary Care and Psych-Mental Health NPs (free with Passport Membership)! 

Where do Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners work? 

PMHNPs commonly work in a primary care setting or a specialized care facility such as a mental health center or substance abuse center. The most popular roles outside of these are independent ones, such as a private practice or an independent contractor.  

It is also possible to work in an emergency care setting, such as a hospital, providing psychosocial assessments and intakes. There are both inpatient and outpatient roles available to PMHNPs, and it is possible for Nurse Practitioners working in an inpatient setting or emergency department to have a night shift or on-call schedule. 

Can PMHNPs work independently? 

Yes, it is possible for PMHNPs to work independently, either as independent contractors with a company or by opening one’s own practice. In either of these cases, keep in mind that as an independent PMHNP, you will have to oversee your own liability/malpractice insurance and your own credentialing. Don’t forget: independent practitioners are responsible for their own insurance. This can lead to significant financial costs while starting a practice. This is vital to keep in mind if you are considering going solo as a PMHNP. 

Also keep in mind that starting a business as an independent PMHNP will likely require you to get credentialed by insurance carriers again, as credentialing is rarely transferable between positions. Getting credentialed from insurance companies is a lengthy process that, in many states, you must complete with every insurer separately to bill services to them.  

Credentialing can take up to six months, and it is not possible to bill for services prior to being credentialed. Therefore, it is important to plan, even before leaving one’s current position, and take care of this step as soon as possible.  

Can PMHNPs prescribe in all states? 

Nurse Practitioners cannot prescribe all medications in all states; however, this landscape is evolving. In a growing number of states, Nurse Practitioners have full practice authority (FPA), meaning they can prescribe even controlled substances independently.  

In a shrinking number of states, NPs need a physician collaborator or supervisor. Depending on the state you work in, this law makes a huge difference for PMHNPs to be able to prescribe, treat, and monitor their patients’ psychiatric care. 

Who’s a good fit for a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner role? 

The role of mental health in nursing is critical, and it is important for all medical professionals to have some training in mental health. If you are particularly passionate about a holistic, patient-centered approach to care, a PMHNP might prove a fulfilling career. The most successful PMHNPs are nurses who enjoy building lasting relationships with patients and have strong communication skills.  

Because it is possible to work with any patient population and in a wide variety of practice settings, Nurse Practitioners with a PMHNP board certification enjoy a wide range of job opportunities and choices. 

How does a Nurse Practitioner become a PMHNP? 

If working as a PMHNP appeals to you, you’ll first need to obtain your board certification. This work typically comes after already working as an advanced practice nurse, one holding a BSN. PMHNPs go through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Certification Program.  

To get certified, you must meet the eligibility requirements and pass the certification examination. FHEA is an approved provider of NP certification review courses and online continuing education courses for CE credit hours. Once you obtain your board certification, it is valid for five years before you need to complete the renewal process. 

Related: Precision Medicine for Depression, Anxiety, and ADHD (free with Passport Membership)! 

What patient populations do PMHNPs treat? 

One great thing about the PMHNP certification is that it includes all ages of patients. Nurse Practitioners in this field hold a “Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certification (PMHNP-BC).” This means that you could choose to work with children, adolescents, adults, or seniors. 

In some cases, you may work with all patient populations, such as jobs in an emergency setting. In other cases, you can choose a job location that best suits your preferred population. For example, if you prefer working with older adults, there are roles for PMHNPs in nursing homes. Or, if you are looking to work with children, you may find a position as a PMHNP in a pediatric primary care setting. 

Is now a good time to become a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner? 

Many PMHNP programs have doubled in recent years, and demand is still on the rise. There is a growing need for mental healthcare in the United States, and the mental health industry is increasingly relying on Nurse Practitioners to fill the gap. Furthermore, many states are expanding the scope of practice to include full practice authority for nurse practitioners. Therefore, experts expect a continued deficit of PMHNPs for at least the next decade. If you are considering this certification as a career upgrade, now is a great time to get started.  

Earn CE hours with our online course on Optimizing your NP Career (free with Passport Membership)! 

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