Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric nurse practitioners (NPs) are certified advanced practice nurses who administer to the mental health needs of individuals, families, groups or communities. To become certified as a psychiatric NP, nursing professionals must hold a Master of Science in Nursing degree specializing in psychiatric healthcare, current Registered Nurse licensure and certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Nursing professionals who wish to further specialize may choose from programs in child, adolescent, gerontological, substance abuse or forensic psychiatry. Some psychiatric NPs go on to earn a doctoral degree within their specialty, though this is not a requirement.

What Does a Psychiatric NP Do?

Psychiatric NPs assess and diagnose patients, provide psychotherapy and prescribe medication. They treat patients with diagnosed disorders, as well as those with family histories or other factors that increase the likelihood of potential mental illness. In keeping with nurse practitioners’ holistic approach to health care, psychiatric nurse practitioners educate and inform patients and their families about mental health issues and steps they can take to boost their care.

Typical duties for a psychiatric NP include assessing and diagnosing mental health problems like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse or dementia; other patients may struggle with grief, anger, adjustment issues or other conditions. Diagnostic steps for these problems include recording a patient’s verbal history, performing a physical exam and ordering diagnostic tests. When a diagnosis is made, the nurse practitioner develops and manages a treatment plan, prescribing medication and administering psychotherapy as necessary. Nurses treat patients one-on-one or in group settings with family members or other patients.

Potential Work Settings

  • Private practice
  • Psychiatric and behavioral treatment clinics
  • Corporations
  • Consulting with businesses or communities
  • Residential treatment facilities
  • Public health agencies
  • Family practice or pediatric clinics
  • Correctional Facilities

What Does It Take to Become a Psychiatric NP?

Skills

Self-Confidence

Nurse practitioners often work with little physician oversight. To independently assess, diagnose and treat patients just as physicians do, a psychiatric nurse practitioner must be confident in their ability to develop effective treatment plans.

Interpersonal Ability

Nurse practitioners spend most of their day contacting patients, families and colleagues. Successful NPs must be able to work effectively with all of them, regardless of their communication styles. Adaptability and the ability to collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds are essential for success in this field.

Listening Skills

Listening is a crucial skill for any nurse, but especially so in psychiatric care. For many patients, it’s therapeutic to feel that they’re heard and acknowledged; good listening skills allow these patients to feel safe and able to speak freely.

Communication

Patients who are experiencing difficult or emotionally-fraught situations often need help navigating their feelings. Therapeutic communication is specifically designed to help these individuals, and psychiatric NPs must be able to deploy professional communication techniques to assist patients in delicate situations. Thorough knowledge of verbal and nonverbal cues is essential to evaluating patients, particularly those who are unable to be forthcoming in a psychiatric healthcare setting.

Desire to Educate

Psychiatry, and mental health issues in general, are subject to more societal stigma than many other branches of healthcare. Psychiatric nurse practitioners are in a unique position to correct common misunderstandings by educating patients, families and the broader public. Successful psychiatric NPs welcome the opportunity to reject common myths about mental health.

Emotional Stability

Boundaries can be especially important in this specialty. Practitioners should be able to confront any issues their patients experience, no matter how dark or personally triggering they may be.

Composure

Staying calm in a crisis is particularly important in a specialty that lends itself to tense situations. Nurses must be able to project calmness in the presence of agitated or excited patients, while still maintaining a position of authority. Professionals in the field must be able to defuse potentially volatile situations. Maintaining objectivity while assessing patients is crucial.

Problem-solving

Psychiatric nurse practitioners may need to make decisions within a rapidly changing environment. Mental health patients can be unpredictable in their behavior, which requires professionals to react quickly. If a patient suddenly threatens or attempts suicide, for example, an nurse’s reaction could mean the difference between life and death. Advanced problem-solving skills can prevent devastating outcomes for these patients.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Information and Job Outlook

How Much Do Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners Make?

$82,780+$91,030+$99,280+$107,520+
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner: Average Salary by State This map presents average annual salary for the occupation Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner in each state in the U.S. Average Annual Salary in HI: $115,870 HI Average Annual Salary in AK: $115,670 AK Average Annual Salary in FL: $92,530 FL Average Annual Salary in NH: $100,000 NH Average Annual Salary in MI: $92,260 MI Average Annual Salary in VT: $91,030 VT Average Annual Salary in ME: $94,400 ME Average Annual Salary in RI: $101,130 RI Average Annual Salary in NY: $104,510 NY Average Annual Salary in PA: $88,480 PA Average Annual Salary in NJ: $106,060 NJ Average Annual Salary in DE: $97,300 DE Average Annual Salary in MD: $93,020 MD Average Annual Salary in VA: $96,420 VA Average Annual Salary in WV: $88,780 WV Average Annual Salary in OH: $92,830 OH Average Annual Salary in IN: $93,200 IN Average Annual Salary in IL: $85,410 IL Average Annual Salary in CT: $99,180 CT Average Annual Salary in WI: $93,170 WI Average Annual Salary in NC: $96,020 NC Average Annual Salary in MA: $107,230 MA Average Annual Salary in TN: $91,950 TN Average Annual Salary in AR: $97,680 AR Average Annual Salary in MO: $89,690 MO Average Annual Salary in GA: $90,490 GA Average Annual Salary in SC: $88,460 SC Average Annual Salary in KY: $93,230 KY Average Annual Salary in AL: $91,000 AL Average Annual Salary in LA: $96,510 LA Average Annual Salary in MS: $99,080 MS Average Annual Salary in IA: $92,770 IA Average Annual Salary in MN: $102,640 MN Average Annual Salary in OK: $82,880 OK Average Annual Salary in TX: $102,070 TX Average Annual Salary in NM: $100,490 NM Average Annual Salary in KS: $84,270 KS Average Annual Salary in NE: $90,240 NE Average Annual Salary in SD: $90,210 SD Average Annual Salary in ND: $88,520 ND Average Annual Salary in WY: $90,400 WY Average Annual Salary in MT: $92,800 MT Average Annual Salary in CO: $101,290 CO Average Annual Salary in ID: $94,040 ID Average Annual Salary in UT: $93,110 UT Average Annual Salary in AZ: $102,720 AZ Average Annual Salary in NV: $95,450 NV Average Annual Salary in OR: $111,160 OR Average Annual Salary in WA: $100,530 WA Average Annual Salary in CA: $115,460 CA

  • Median Hourly Wage: $50.00
  • Mean Salary: $90,661

Source: Data taken from Payscale and The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed: December 2015.

Nurses Are in Demand

2M 3M 4M 2010 2015 2020 2.74 Million Jobs 3.45 Million Jobs
  • 712,000 New Jobs
  • 495,500 Replacement Jobs
  • 10.2 Million by 2020
  • 26% More Nursing Jobs Expected to Be Created between 2010 and 2020

Source: Data taken from The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed: December 2015.

Meet a Psychiatric NP

Psychiatric Nurse Resources

Online Psychiatric Nursing Programs

In alphabetical order, here is a list of accredited online psychiatric nursing programs for your review.

Students: Before enrolling, please be sure to double-check that the program is accredited, offered online during your period of study, and all eligibility and licensing requirements meet your situation.

If you are an accredited, not-for-profit institution that offers an online nurse anesthetist program and that isn’t listed, please contact us with details about your program, a link to your program page and proof of accreditation.

Psychiatric Nursing Programs

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