Master’s in Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

In the field of mental health, there are numerous positions that can set you on track for assisting the public with their psychological woes. Unlike most counseling and psychology degree programs, college programs that focus on nursing as the primary track can give students a more distinguished look at the treatment of mental illnesses from a clinical point of view. Choosing to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner can allow you to work individually with clients in assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental illnesses while still maintaining the nursing distinction.

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Psychiatric nurse practitioners may be participating in one of the quickest growing career fields for people that want to make a difference in the lives of others, without having to complete the grueling requirements of medical school. This field can provide outstanding opportunities for those that become licensed to work in the field, including work in psychiatric facilities, schools, or even in public policy creation. Using clinical assessment and therapeutic processes, psychiatric NPs treat patients that are suffering from mental illness as well as educate families about methods for better mental health.

The job duties required as a psychiatric NP are similar to that of a practicing psychiatrist and include counseling and psychotherapy alongside pharmaceutical interventions. Some students choose to pursue degrees as psychiatric nurse practitioners rather than taking the psychiatry track so that they have more flexibility within their career and more free time in their personal lives. If you are looking for a career field that can give you more diagnostic power within nursing, take a look below at what our dedicated educational experts have provided in this guide.

Requirements for an MSN in Psychiatric NP Degree

Bachelor’s Degree and RN Licensure

When you first decide that you want to become a psychiatric NP, you should find a bachelor’s degree program that is centered on nursing. Nursing is the first step on the path to being accepted into a psychiatric NP master’s program. Throughout this degree program, you may be expected to take part in 120 credit hours of studies that include both prerequisite educational requirements and courses that are specific to nursing. Through this initial degree requirement, students can learn how to apply basic nursing principles to people suffering from all illness and disease, which can prove to be a useful tool when working in the field of psychiatry.

The bachelor’s stage is the introductory stage for any profession and may require 4 years for completion. After completing bachelor’s level programs, most graduates on the path to the PNP will gain work experience and become a licensed RN. These requirements can be helpful considering that most master’s programs for psychiatric nurse practitioners require 1-2 years of experience in the field.

Master’s Degree and PNP Certification/Licensure

Since there is a history of different methods for obtaining the RN distinction, master’s programs focusing on psychiatric nursing practice have provided options for individuals that are licensed from associate’s and bachelor’s level education. Depending on what degree applicants hold, the master’s curriculum may differ slightly. In order to be accepted into either of these programs, you must first provide proof of graduation from an accredited degree program, proof of licensure as a registered nurse, and have 1-2 years experience working in the field of nursing.

Once you have been accepted into the master’s program, you may be expected to complete around 60 credit hours on average for the BSN to MSN track or around 80 credit hours for the RN to BSN track. After completing the master’s degree program, you may also need to successfully pass the American Associates of Colleges of Nursing’s board examination prior to receiving a license to practice within your state. The AACN’s examination consists of theories and questions regarding physical and mental health diagnosis, treatment, and ethics.

Example Course Work and Schools

The MSN Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner program may consist of coursework that combines the importance of great nursing with the psychological components of mental illness and treatment. The purpose of this degree program is to create effective practitioners that can assist with the diagnosis and treatment of patients that seek psychiatric help. Through coursework and assigned practica, students may get a first-hand look at what is involved in being a great practitioner.

The classes that are required for this degree program not only address the variety of mental illnesses in existence, but also the clinically-proven treatment methods available for use. While your experience may vary depending on the university you choose, you can also note similarities between different programs offering this degree. Take a look below at some of the coursework present within this educational program, as well as a comparison of different schools providing this degree.

Example Courses

Advanced Pharmacology

While in this course, students may take a look at the application of drug therapy over the course of a lifespan. The prescription, application, and effects of pharmaceuticals may be outlined in this course. Decision-making for complex mental illness and disease is examined throughout this class.

Psychotherapy With Individuals

Students in this course may learn how to apply evidence-based practices to their therapeutic programs. Proven effective therapy techniques may be outlined, providing students with the knowledge needed to assist patients suffering from mental illness.

Psychotherapy With Groups

This course instructs different methods for effective group and family therapy. The benefits and dynamics of group therapy may be explained, as well as the different techniques that are reserved to therapy in a group context.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing: Child and Adolescent

This course seeks to teach students about the mental health disorders that are most prominent in childhood and adolescence. Assessment of the initial symptoms, testing, and diagnosis may also be discussed in depth throughout this course.

University Comparison

Wilkes University

The MSN Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner program at Wilkes University has an excellent program that is delivered in an online setting. This university gives students the option of pursuing their MSN from RN status, bachelor’s level, and even has a post-graduate certificate route available. The completion time for each program is dependent on the current educational level of students enrolled. The coursework for this program is completely online, but the university does have a brief residency requirement as well as a required clinical practice portion.

Maryville University

The online program at MU has a few benefits that upcoming students may find convenient along their path to practitioner status. Maryville offers students the option of pursuing their degree without the need for a residency or GRE/GMAT, which is a highly sought after requirement for students enrolling in these programs. This MSN program also provides a quick admissions process as well as the addition of local practica, which can ease the transition into master’s level education for newly enrolled students.

Common Areas a PMHNP May Work/Common Work Duties

While the primary responsibility of the psychiatric nurse practitioner lies in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of people suffering from mental illness, the field itself provides an even more complex service to the general public. Mental illness can play a role in the overall quality of life for patients from all settings. NPs work to help people address mental illness so that they may lead more productive and happy lives. Identifying mental ailments requires a strong knowledge of the various psychological illnesses as well as the different methods for diagnosing them.

Applying the directives of psychotherapy and perhaps even pharmaceutical therapy is a common role for professionals in this field. Practitioners must understand the effects and interactions of drugs used during therapy, as well as the transformative effect of psychotherapy for individuals and groups. Psychiatric NPs work with patients to determine their overall mental status, assess any past or present physical illnesses, and present treatment programs that are therapeutic in nature.

Most common, psychiatric NPs work in mental health settings, including both in-patient or outpatient facilities. These professionals may also be found in hospitals and rehabilitation centers that focus on the need for diagnosis for further treatment. Since this field involves the treatment of people throughout the lifespan, NPs in this discipline may become more prominent in fields such as education, counseling, and geriatric services.

Salary for Psychiatriatic NPs

When deciding to become a psychiatric NP, you may find yourself curious about the career potential and salary benefits associated with working in this field. Nurse practitioners have shown in increase in prominence over recent years, making this a reliable field to set your roots. Since the field itself has seen an increase in interest, it may be more likely for you to see nurse practitioners in a clinical setting – working alongside physicians in areas such as general healthcare, mental health, and even specialty fields.

With the growth in admissions in the field of nursing practice, more healthcare settings are seeking these professionals to assist with the direct care of patients, without having to rely solely on doctoral level graduates and physicians.

When considering income potential, nurse practitioners in all fields are grouped into a single statistic. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for nurse practitioners in all disciplines is $107,460 on average per year (BLS; 2016). While these figures are representative of all nurse practitioners as a whole, it still provides valuable insight into your future potential working in the field of psychiatry. As with most fields, the more experience you have working in the field, the more you can earn in your employment. The chosen area of employment can also have a huge influence on the amount that professionals earn throughout their career.

Final Thoughts

As you move along your journey to higher education, it is important to consider the different options for your degree program, the job outlook of the career field you are interested in, and the earning potential. Getting involved in a degree program is an important decision that can contribute to your livelihood and your investment into your future.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners provide similar services to doctoral-level professionals such as clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. Using proven-effective methods such as psychotherapy and pharmaceutical intervention, you can potentially save people from the debilitating effects of psychological illness. In terms of job availability, the country could possibly see an increase in practitioners over the next decade, with the BLS estimating a growth rate of 31% (BLS; 2016). The mental health field is constantly growing, which can provide career opportunities that last a lifetime. Choosing to become a psychiatric NP may be a decision that causes a positive change in your life for years to come.

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