The role of the psychiatric nurse stretches wide, they perform direct patient care for emotionally and mentally ill patients, patients that are emotionally disturbed, and provide direct patient care for patients that have development handicaps. Furthermore, they work with families, community groups as well as individuals. If you enjoy mental health and how the mind works you just may enjoy a career as a Psychiatric Nurse!

How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse Guide

Quick Summary

Psychiatric nurse practitioners provide preventive maintenance for patients that have a mental illness. Psychiatric nurse practitioners provide treatments and diagnoses for patients that suffer from mental disorders.

This includes pediatric adult teens and elderly patients. Some of these patients may have a broad spectrum of mentally and emotionally related disorders. Additionally, they provide individualized nursing care, and some psychiatric nurses work within management and administrative positions and can even serve as consultants and conduct research.

Degree needed to practice: Bachelor of Science (BSN) and Master of Science (MSN)

License Needed: Registered Nursing (RN) License

Certification: The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification.

How much do Psychiatric nurse practitioners make?  The Median annual salary is $104,470* for all nurse practitioners


Table of Contents

What does a Psychiatric nurse practitioner do?

Psychiatric nurses along with psychiatric advanced practice nurses focus on the psychological portion of mental health. Deciding to pursue this career, you will need to have plenty of patients and enjoy working in a fast-paced environment. Those who enjoy research, human behavior, and the way the brain processes information could enjoy becoming psychiatric nurse.

Mental health nurses are sometimes referred to as psychiatric nurses, however; they both are registered nurses that mainly work with patients that need psychiatric and mental health care. Advanced practice psychiatric nurses are nurses that have graduate degrees and have earned specialized certifications they are also registered, nurses.

If you decide to pursue a career in psychiatric nurse thing, it is important to know that are occasions you may be confronted with situations that may require you to act immediately and independently as well as confidently as some patients may be unpredictable at times. Unfortunately, there are no psychiatric patients that are very troubled and have a hard time sometimes communicating so you will need to have plenty of patience and be able to contact people that have mental problems of all ages.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners can sometimes work in administrative and supervisory positions and depending on what state they live in some may be able to prescribe medications and psychotherapy sessions.

If you decide to go into the psychiatric field you can sub-specialize in specific patient populations such as mental health nursing for a child for children, substance abuse nursing for people that may suffer from such as abuse problems; some psychiatric nurses go on to work in forensic nursing.


What is the Psychiatric Nurse Job Duties?

  • Provide direct patient care that includes evaluating and monitoring patient’s medical conditions
  • Implement treatment plans
  • Consult with other health care providers such as psychiatrists
  • Perform physical and psychiatric assessments of patients
  • Administer patient medications as prescribed by doctor or nurse practitioner
  • Review patient medications as well as documents and observe the patient’s behavior to the medication

Psychiatric nurses can work for nursing homes, research institutions, hospitals, correctional and government agencies. Your work environment will most likely be clean with plenty of lighting. A majority of psychiatric nurses that are employed in hospitals will work between 10 or even 12-hour shifts. The hours can be intense and long.

Therefore, you will need to make sure that if you pursue a career in psychiatric nursing you are in good physical health and have a high capacity to be on your feet for long periods.

There’s not just one particular patient population the psychiatrist will work with they provide a broad spectrum of care for all people this including the elderly, adults teens as well as children. If you choose to move into this career and you decide that you want to work in a different area you may consider working as a community health nurse or perhaps as educator the psychiatric nursing training can give you a better advantage when working with the people of the community.

Psychiatric nurses could even work for insurance companies; government facilities, healthcare institutions large and small, or even some can even take on research positions. Additionally, some psychiatric nurses provide consulting and are self-employed.

Moreover, one must know psychiatric nursing is a very intense specialty indeed. As some patients do and will require constant attention and monitoring to their mental and physical conditions.

Characteristics and skills needed to be a successful Psychiatric nurse practitioner

  • Plenty of patience – some patients will challenge and may test you
  • Compassion with excellent interpersonal skills
  • Not easily freighted with the ability to stay calm– Patients may not be able to control their behavior
  • Not easily discouraged
  • Enjoy researching
  • Have good observation skills
  • Motivated with a positive outlook and attitude will be needed


What education will I need to become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

To become a psychiatric nurse you will need post-secondary training beyond a high school diploma. Psychiatric nurses are registered nurses through to practice of the psychiatric nurse first; you have to earn your nursing credentials.

There are three kinds of educational programs such as a hospital diploma, a two-year Associates degree in nursing, or getting a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing. All these educational programs can make you eligible to take the NCLEX-RN national examination to earn your registered nursing license.

If you choose to advance your career and become an advanced practice nurse with a specialty of psychiatric nursing, you will need a graduate degree. To become a psychiatric nurse practitioner you will need to attend a nurse practitioner program that specializes in mental training.

Typically this type of training program takes about 24 months to complete.  Upon successful graduation, you will have a Master’s Degree in Science (MSN).

Remember that before you start working you will need registered nursing experience within this specialty field. It is best to check with your local hospital and for new nursing graduate orientations and internship programs.


What Certifications are available for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners?

If you decide that you want to become a psychiatric nurse, obtaining additional credentials could be optional depending on the institution you work for.

However if you choose that you want to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you will need to obtain certification. The American nurses credentialing center currently offers the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification PMHNP-BC.

To become eligible to obtain the PMHNP-BC credential you will need to meet the following requirements:

  1. Hold an active registered unrestricted nursing license.
  2. Have either a Masters, postgraduate, or doctorate from an accredited nursing school.
  3. Next to that you will need to have 500 supervised clinical hours. These hours will need to be included within your master’s, postgraduate, or doctorate nursing program.


Career Outlook

Unfortunately, mental illness is everywhere and is considered one of Americas leading cause of mental disabilities. To add to that several mental disorders affect patients both young and old. Mental illness has no bias or prejudice of who you are or where you came from. One in five Americans suffers from mental disorders on one level or another that is creating a need for psychiatric nurses within the future.

According to the department of labor and statistics, registered nursing is the largest healthcare providers, and a registered nurses employment will continue to grow much faster than average for all nursing specialties.

Read also –How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Guide

Check out our other Nursing School Guides.