What is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?
A psychiatric nurse practitioner can be a rewarding career that helps you touch patient’s lives and help them in their journey of self-growth. For those interested in mental health and caring for patients, as well as teaching them how to care for themselves, a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner is rewarding. This position is also referred to as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner or PMNP. This sector of the medical field is set for substantial growth when it comes to career opportunities, as the government attempts to improve mental health resources for the public. Because being a psychiatric nurse practitioner is a limited position that does not allow much room for growth, those who obtain a job as a psychiatric nurse practitioner tend to stay at the same job for years. This is not a job where employees move around a lot. Most stay at the same doctor’s office or clinic for a number of years after being hired.
A psychiatric nurse practitioner must start with a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree can often qualify you for a fast-paced nursing program that allows you to start practicing within a year. Check with your state’s requirements to see if there’s a program in your area that allows you to move at this accelerated pace. If you do not have a medical background, this accelerated program may be difficult. You will be learning many basic parts of nursing and also have an emphasis on psychiatry and handling patients suffering from many issues. This prepares you to sit for the NCLEX-RN. This is an exam that every nurse in the country must take in order to begin practicing in any capacity. After passing the NCLEX-RN, you will apply for a masters in nursing.
Nurse Practitioner Programs
While a nurse practitioner does not have all of the same responsibilities as a doctor, he or she goes to extensive training (typically an additional 6-10 years) and classes to put them in a position to handle clients as effectively. A masters in nursing requires extensive hours of clinical work. In most states, it is at least 600 hours, which prepares you for the daily pressure and situations you’ll encounter on the job. In 2015, many universities are introducing a doctorate in nurse practice (DNP) that aspiring nurse practitioners will be able to apply for to complete their studies.
Your nursing program should be in the same state you wish to practice in. That will ensure you’re being prepped for that state’s regulations and protocol when dealing with patients. This is especially important in the mental health realm where laws vary by state. What also varies are the certification exams that must be passed to become a licensed psychiatric nurse practitioner. In a nurse practitioner program you will learn the basics of mental health, the causes and the known treatments. The medical field is all about technology, so you should be comfortable working with computers and the latest software, as well as have the compassion to relate to human beings who need serious medical attention.
All psychiatric nurse practitioners must complete continuing education courses on a regular basis to keep their license and continue to work. Continuing education classes and periodic testing for renewal of a license are common practice for those working in the medical field such as doctors, nurses and EMTs. A psychiatric nurse practitioner is licensed to diagnose a patient as well as administer and prescribe medical drugs. The average salary for a psychiatric nurse practitioner is $95,000. In late 2010, psychiatric nurse practitioners were ranked 3rd for the highest paying nurse specialty in the medical field.
Where Can I Work as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?
Psychiatric nurse practitioners can work in a variety of settings and with many different client groups. Depending on area of specialty and geographic region, options for psychiatric nurse practitioners are practically endless. Licenses and certification are other factors that influence where psychiatric nurse practitioners work. These professional settings may include:
- Hospital: Many hospitals have a psychiatric nurse practitioner on site 24 hours a day. This ensures that the needs of a patient is being met should he or she need psychiatric help. There are many reasons a mentally sound person may need a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Patients are often overwhelmed with anxiety if they are going into surgery soon or have experienced a traumatic event. A psychiatric nurse practitioner is trained to handle these events and more qualified than a nurse who only has standard healthcare training.
- Nursing Home: Some nursing homes cater to the elderly who suffer from mental problems. A psychiatric nurse practitioner is usually on duty to help calm a patient and give drugs if needed. Some psychiatric nurse practitioners may also have a background in gerontology, which is the study of the elderly and their needs. A psychiatric nurse practitioner working in a nursing home should have a positive, upbeat attitude and patience. Working with elderly patients can be emotionally and physically exhausting. You should also be physically fit as you may have to lift patients or walk around with them extensively to build a relationship of trust that will benefit them when seeking treatment.
- Mental Health Facility: This may be a secured ward or a voluntary mental health facility. You will be helping patients on a daily basis and build a treatment system that will benefit their mental health. In this position, it is imperative you’re compassionate and encouraging. For some patients, you will have to prepare them for the outside world. This can be an overwhelming idea for patients as they grow accustomed to living in one place and not going out for long durations of time. You will monitor a patient’s developments and gauge when the patient is ready to move on to a new step in the treatment regimen or ready to be free to stop treatment all together.
- Patient homes: Some patients may require a psychiatric nurse practitioner to visit them at home. This may be a weekly or monthly visit. Typically this will happen with a patient has someone at home to care for them and is not considered a threat to themselves or to others. You will stop by periodically to ensure any drug treatment is being followed properly and to provide moral support for the patient and family.
In addition to these settings, psychiatric nurse practitioners can also work in the education sector. They can teach classes and train other nurses how to perform certain tasks. Depending on your area of interest, you can find employment in many different capacities. Psychiatric nurse practitioners program help students discover what’s best for them. Our list of accredited programs below will link you to more details about program offerings.