Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Career Paths

Nursing to promote mental and physical wellness.

When you further your nursing education in the field of psychiatric-mental health, you can prepare to treat both physical and mental issues through assessment, psychiatric diagnosis and medication management.

At Duquesne University, our online Psychiatric-Mental Health MSN program will equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to care for patients on a holistic level. You will partner with your patients in a meaningful way to provide a unique blend of care and cure.

What does a psychiatric nurse practitioner (PMHNP) do?

As a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, you will serve a variety of patients, and not only on the individual level. You’ll also be prepared to work with families, large groups and communities to assess and provide treatment plans for mental illnesses.

By forming and maintaining strong relationships with your patients, you will assess their mental and physical health, and provide education on proper treatments, which may include prescription medication intervention, to help them overcome mental health concerns and/or substance abuse disorders.

What are advanced psych-mental health nurses responsible for? 

  • Diagnosing, treating and managing chronic and acute illnesses as they relate to your patients’ mental health.
  • Ordering and interpreting lab and diagnostic studies tests.
  • Educating patients, their families and larger communities about mental health and substance abuse.
  • Providing integrative therapies which may include interventions, psychotherapy and consultative services.
  • Participating in advocacy and policy development programs through your local communities or larger government groups.

What’s the outlook for psych-mental health nurse practitioners?

  • High Job Growth. The demand for nurse practitioners as a whole is projected to grow 26% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the national average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Greatest Earning Potential. According to a 2019 Medscape APRN Compensation Report, psychiatric-mental health NPs were tied in the #1 spot for highest income at $114,000.
  • Increased Demand. There is a severe shortage of mental health care providers, including advanced practice nurse practitioners. One study by the National Council for Behavioral Health indicated that the number of psych-mental health APRNs would grow from 13,800 to 18,000 from 2017 to 2025, but this would not be enough to meet the demand.

Where can your career path as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner take you?

There is an overwhelming need for nursing professionals who specialize in mental health in today’s health care environment. By answering this call as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, you may work in one of the following settings:

Behavioral Health Centers

As a psychiatric-mental health NP working in a behavioral health center, you will be responsible for ordering and conducting physical, psychosocial and psychopharmacologic assessments for patients of various ages. You will develop treatment plans, which may include medication management, to attain the expected health outcomes. NPs in these centers may also be responsible for community education regarding mental health illness and treatment.

Correctional Facilities

As a PMHNP in a correctional facility, you will conduct assessments and treatments of offenders. You will also be expected to collaborate with the staff and other personnel in the facility, ensuring that the staff is informed and educated on how to properly interact with offenders who have psychiatric illnesses. You may also be called in to assist with crisis intervention and suicide assessments.

Private Practice

Depending on the state, some PMHNPs may be eligible to open their own independent private practice. In these situations you would be responsible for medication management and psychotherapy of your clients. These clients may come to see you on a regular basis, rather than as needed. As a PMHNP in a private practice, you may work alongside psychiatrists as well.

Veterans Facilities

Working in a facility that caters to the care of veterans can be extremely rewarding for a psychiatric NP. You may be expected to order and interpret diagnostic tests to assess your patients and evaluate their physical and mental health, as well as social and familial history, to understand them and their mental illnesses. You will also need to collaborate with other health care professionals to create and implement treatment plans.

Domestic Violence Shelters

Nurse practitioners who specialize in psychiatric-mental health may work in shelters dedicated to helping individuals who have experienced domestic violence. Working as an NP in these facilities, you may be in charge of examining physical injuries as well as mental health treatment of patients, providing prescription treatment if necessary, and you may be called to testify in court cases.

Residential Substance Abuse Shelters

As a nurse practitioner working in a substance abuse shelter or treatment facility, you will be responsible for evaluating and diagnosing the residents in the facility, prescribing and managing medicine, and conducting individual and group therapy to help the residents cope with anxiety, depression, addiction and other disorders.