Nurse practitioners who specialize in mental health are known as psychiatric nurse practitioners. They are responsible for assessing and diagnosing patients with various disorders, mental illnesses, addictions, abuse problems, etc.
These nurses play a crucial role in psychotherapy and have the authority to prescribe medicines. They also educate the patient and their family about the issue at hand and prepare treatment plans.
Hence, it is safe to say that psychiatric nurse practitioners play a crucial role in delivering mental health services. If you wish to pursue this profession, here are the steps you need to take.
1. Earn a BSN degree
A Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is the first step in becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. This program can be completed on-campus or online, depending on your schedule and learning preferences. In general, a full-time student can complete the program in four years. However, it may take longer if you choose to lessen your burden with fewer courses at a time. A typical BSN course includes biology, organic chemistry, microbiology, human anatomy, clinical pharmacology, etc.
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2. Earn an MSN degree
After earning your BSN degree as a registered nurse, you will need to enroll in psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner programs that offer an MSN. With an MSN degree that focuses on mental health, students can prepare for their practical work by acquiring the skills necessary for the job. It entails many skills such as assessing patients, diagnosing their illness, and understanding their needs. Moreover, the program includes advanced courses such as advanced health assessment, pharmacology, psychopharmacology, etc.
You can consider taking other courses after completing your MSN program to upgrade your knowledge and gain new skills. For example, you can do coursework related to clinical therapies, treatments, therapeutic communication, etc.
3. Gain work experience
Following completion of your major academic requirements, it is time for you to gain some field experience. It will allow you to put into practice what you have learned throughout your education. Furthermore, it will improve your communication skills, collaborative and teamwork skills, and time management skills. As you gain experience, you’ll also gain a better understanding of how mental health and physical health are interconnected.
4. Acquire a PMHNP certification
Certification is the last thing you need to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. An ANCC-issued certificate for PMHNPs requires passing a competency exam. The exam will evaluate your clinical expertise, knowledge, and skills in order to determine whether you’re well-suited for service in the field.
All applicants must have an active registered nurse license (RN) from their state if they wish to take this exam. The certification is only valid for five years, after which you will have to take the test again to renew it.
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Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners need certain skills that may make them successful in the field. You will also have to master these skills in order to maintain a successful practice and training. These skills are:
As a medical professional in this complex field, you must have strong communication skills to help patients cope with mental illnesses. As trust is a crucial element of mental health services, your verbal skills will determine whether you are able to convince a patient to trust you. In addition, understanding non-verbal communication such as body language is just as vital to deciphering the patient’s message.
Working as a nurse will require you to adapt to a variety of situations. Your work will require you to interact with people from diverse backgrounds. And you’ll need to maintain constant contact with patients and their families, as well as coordinate with colleagues. A flexible mind is essential in such scenarios. You need to be able to adapt to each situation and communicate or collaborate accordingly.
In general, nursing is a stressful profession. They have to be on their feet all day, interacting with doctors, management, patients, and their families.
As a nurse, your job will require you to be active throughout the shift. Therefore, to survive in this profession, you will need to be physically fit and strong. Since you will be dealing with violent and hysterical patients more often as a mental health nurse practitioner, you will need more physical and emotional stamina.
Mental health nurses play a crucial role in maintaining order and discipline in healthcare facilities. They are also directly responsible for dealing with patients and their families.
As the requirements of the field vary, PMHNPs need a bit different skill set than other nurses. Aside from the few unique skills needed for the job, the work is almost identical to that of a registered nurse.
PMHNPs have an extremely high demand for their services, so if you are considering it as a career choice, you might want to start now.