Assisting patients during difficult periods in their lives is one of the most fulfilling aspects of nursing. Advanced nursing professionals who specialize in mental health care direct this fundamental impulse of nursing toward patients suffering from the specific symptoms, conditions, and needs related to behavioral and emotional issues, including substance abuse. With mental illness affecting 1 in 5 adults in the U.S., according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) are in high demand across the country.
PMHNPs play a vital role in helping patients manage and treat their struggles with mental health issues, providing them with the tools they need to improve their lives and sense of well-being. To become a PMHNP, nurses must earn an advanced degree such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). With dedication and the specialized knowledge developed through completing a master’s program, nurses have the potential to earn more with a higher PMHNP salary, pursue their passion and build a fulfilling career.
What Does a PMHNP Do?
Treating mental health issues as a PMHNP typically requires a holistic approach and in-depth knowledge and skills related to mental health care. From assessments and diagnoses to treatments and support for healthier lifestyle choices, the work that PMHNPs do can have a profound and lifelong positive impact on the lives of both their patients and their patient’s families.
PMHNPs can work in any of a variety of settings, including treating emergency cases in a hospital, providing long-term care in a doctor’s office or private practice, or addressing the needs of residents in a mental health institution. PMHNPs are often required to provide both physical and psychosocial assessments, utilizing their knowledge of emergency medicine, prolonged mental illness, and substance abuse issues to meet the needs of their patients.
With the factors and needs differing from one patient to the next and based on the healthcare setting, PMHNPs’ day-to-day tasks and responsibilities are many and may include:
- Assessing, diagnosing, and prescribing treatment plans or medication
- Promoting healthy environments, habits, self-care techniques, and lifestyles for patients
- Assisting in crisis interventions or emergency care management
- Providing counseling, health education, and psychoeducation
- Conducting group therapy sessions
Through careful physical and psychological assessments, diagnoses, and care management strategies, PMHNPs are able to tailor treatment plans to fit each patient. For PMHNPs working with individuals facing substance abuse challenges, an advanced education can be vital to their success, allowing them to utilize strategies such as medication management, therapy, and patient or family education to provide care that evolves with their patients, as they guide them on their path to recovery.
What Is the PMHNP Salary and Job Outlook?
Skilled PMHNPs have the opportunity to work in a variety of healthcare settings. A PMHNP’s schedule can range depending on the type of facility they work in, from the more variable hours of emergency care to the more set schedules of long-term care or private practice care. These factors as well as an individual’s level of education, their years of work experience, and the typical salary range based on their job’s location can factor into a PMHNP’s salary.
According to Payscale, the median annual salary for psychiatric nurse practitioners was around $113,600 as of July 2022, with those on the highest end of the spectrum earning up to $145,000. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary as of May 2021 for nurse practitioners overall was $120,680.
The BLS projects that the overall employment of nurse practitioners will grow by 52% between 2020 and 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Challenges and Opportunities for PMHNPs
The care that PMHNPs provide addresses a vital and rising concern across both the United States and the rest of the world. Mental health issues have always been a challenging part of healthcare, with factors such as a lack of care providers for rural populations as well as the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment posing difficulties for both patients and care providers. Combined with the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising substance abuse rates, the demand for skilled mental health professionals has never been higher.
PMHNPs face a multitude of challenges, such as dealing with symptoms of burnout, treating noncompliant patients, and battling the stigma of mental illness. Nursing leaders with an advanced education in psychiatric and mental health care have the advantage of understanding the range of tools available to them to manage these challenges, including:
- Knowledge of effective self-care practices
- Access to mental health resources
- An understanding of stressors, triggers, and mental health disorders and the psychotropic medications available to treat them
- A community of mental health practitioners who can collaborate on diagnoses, treatment protocols, and solutions
With a thorough understanding of how to manage their own mental health challenges, nursing leaders are able to mitigate the effects of obstacles to care within their workplace. By implementing programs and strategies that directly address these issues, nursing leaders are able to create a supportive and positive environment for the future.
Pursue a Nursing Career in Mental Health
From providing life-changing care to promoting a better public understanding of mental illness, the work that PMHNPs do has the potential to save lives.
For nurses looking to specialize in treating mental health issues and make the transition into a career as a PMHNP, pursuing an advanced degree such as Duquesne University’s online Master of Science in Nursing can be a key stepping stone in their journey.
An online program featuring a dedicated support team, small class sizes, and a curriculum designed by industry professionals, the MSN from Duquesne University was created to give you the tools you need to take the next step in your career and potentially compete for a higher PMHNP salary and job autonomy. Discover how you can make a positive impact with a career in mental health care.