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What Do Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners Do?

Psychiatric nurse practitioners impact all healing modalities for patients suffering from a broad spectrum of mental health ailments. They also support and help to strengthen the patient’s mental health.  Now more than ever, with the increased threat of COVID-19, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) play a critical role in healing our nation and the world.

Social distancing brought on by the pandemic has resulted in isolation, loneliness, financial suffering, loss, anxiety and mood change. It also foreshadowed a mental health crisis. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, one in five adults in America experienced mental illness. Now, the demand for psychiatric care is higher than ever and is likely to keep growing.

What Is a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?

Psychiatric-mental health advanced-practice nursing focuses on the mental issues of individuals, families, communities and groups. A psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) is usually responsible for assessing, diagnosing, and developing a treatment plan for individuals and groups. Their goal is to help diagnose and manage mental health conditions using evidence-based psychiatric treatment for people with mental disorders. PMHNPs bring a complete and holistic therapeutic approach to improve the functioning of their patients by providing psychotherapeutic interventions, prescribing medications and often collaborating with other healthcare providers like general medicine physicians, licensed mental health counselors and psychiatrists.

Who Are the Patients of PMHNPs?

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners are trained to treat individuals across the lifespan. Some PMHNP positions focus on a specific age range, such as children or adolescents, or during a particular life event. For example, a perinatal PMHNP provides emotional support, psychoeducation and medication management for an individual before, during and after pregnancy. Some PMHNPs treat prisoners or veterans in their roles.

Where do PMHNPs Work?

PMHNPs work in a variety of settings, including private practices, clinics or hospitals.  In private practices, they collaborate with psychiatrists in a busy office group practice. Other PMHNPs manage their own private practice. Each state outlines nurse practitioner (NP) practice authority. Some states require a supervising physician and others support independent practice. In either position, PMHNPs often carry their own caseload.

PMHNPs can work within a large healthcare system or with a mental health service to provide treatment in multiple locations, including telehealth. They may provide inpatient psychiatric treatment within a hospital or on-call for various units. Some PMHNPs may work exclusively in an active emergency department, while others work at a specialty psychiatric or substance abuse facility.

What About Telepsychiatry?

Even before the pandemic struck, the use of telemental health was gaining widespread acceptance. Due to COVID-19 distancing restrictions, PMHNPs provide treatment using videoconferencing systems more than ever. In fact, work-from-anywhere positions that are 100% virtual are opening up at an unprecedented rate. Some employers have expanded their psychiatric services to offer face-to-face, virtual or hybrid options.

Telemental health positions offer more access to mental healthcare, particularly in rural areas. Many PMHNPs provide initial consultations for common conditions such as depression and anxiety as well as follow-up visits for titration of medications and monitoring. Telepsychiatry services can positively impact a community while providing PMHNPs with a healthy work-life balance.

How Much Do PMHNPs Make?

According to March 2021 data from PayScale, the average salary of a PMHNP is $109,946 per year. A PMHNP’s salary can vary depending on the location of the position and requirements, with some employers paying much more. PMHNPs can be hired for part-time and remote positions, which offer opportunities for regular working hours and time for other responsibilities.

How Do You Get Started?

A national shortage of psychiatrists is creating a wave of opportunities for PMHNPs to fill the gap. Completing one’s PMHNP education is a way for RNs to level up for these opportunities. You can then apply for the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across Lifespan) Certification (PMHNP-BC).

A practical option for RNs looking to level up in this way is the St. Thomas University (STU) online Master of Science in Nursing – PMHNP program. Review the reasonable requirements for admission to decide if this path is the right one for you.

Learn more about STU’s online Master of Science in Nursing – Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program.


American Nurses Credentialing Center: Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certifications (PMHNP-BC)

Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association: TeleMental Health: Standards, Reimbursement, and Interstate Practice

Mental Health America: Life as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner During COVID-19

National Institute of Mental Health: Mental Health

Nurse Practitioner: How Does Nurse Practitioner Authority Vary by State? Recruiters Tap PMHNP Role to Fill Psychiatrist Shortage

PayScale: Average Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary

Psychiatry & Behavioral Health Learning Network: How COVID-19 Is Changing the Nurse Practitioner Role

Registered Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner


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