A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) is a type of nurse practitioner who helps patients suffering from mental illnesses, disorders, or substance abuse problems by assessing, diagnosing, and providing treatment plans to them.
PMHNPs are in extremely high demand as the need for qualified mental health professionals is on the rise. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 22.8% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2021 (57.8 million people) additionally, 7.6% of U.S. adults experienced a co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness in 2021.
This article will highlight some of the job responsibilities of a psychiatric nurse practitioner, including day-to-day duties, where you can work, and the pros and cons of the job. Keep reading to determine whether this career is right for you.
The specific duties of a psychiatric nurse practitioner will vary depending on location and patient population. Additionally, PMHNPs can be limited in their practice depending on the state of practice.
Here is an overview of what PMHNPs do:
PMHNPs are responsible for overseeing the care of patients with a variety of mental illnesses and disorders, including,
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders
- Trauma-related disorders
- Smoking cessation
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Panic Disorders
- Disruptive behavior
Caring for patients with these illnesses and disorders requires individualized treatment plans and will vary depending on the patient. Generally, these patients benefit from both medication and non-medication treatment plans.
Specifically, PMHNPs will be responsible for the following,
- Diagnosing and treating common acute psychiatric problems, illnesses, and crises
- Psychopharmacologic management in collaboration with a psychiatrist
- Providing individual, group, and family psychotherapy
- Caring for and counseling clients with commonly identified chronic psychiatric conditions
- Coordinating and integrating multidisciplinary services for clients with complex psychiatric problems
- Monitoring common healthcare problems and referring to specialized medical treatment as needed
- Performing or recommending age-appropriate screening procedures
- Emergency psychiatric care
From educating about medications to running group therapy sessions, a PMHNP is responsible for caring for the entire patient. Oftentimes, patients with mental health disorders and illnesses will receive complementary therapies with their pharmacological regimens.
PMHNPs will educate patients as well as their support systems with information regarding illness, treatment plans, and medications.
Psychiatric nurse practitioners are becoming increasingly popular as mental health illnesses are on the rise. This makes becoming a PMHNP a very desirable career option, with the ability to work in a variety of locations. Those locations include,
- In-patient Psychiatric Facilities
- Primary Healthcare Clinics
- Private Psychiatric Practices
- Psychopharmacology Clinic
- Psychiatric Consult Services
- Public health agencies
- Residential Substance Abuse Facilities
- State Psychiatric Facilities
- Student Health Clinics
- Urban Nurse-Managed Clinic
- Veterans Administration Psychiatric Facilities
Shifts as a PMHNP will follow a similar pattern, as it is important for patients with mental illness and disorder to have structure. So the schedule of a PMHNP will follow a similar suit. However, this does depend on the location. PMHNPs who work in a hospital or psychiatric facility will have very similar days.
1. Receiving a Sign-Out From the Overnight Team
You can expect to start your day by receiving a sign-out from the overnight team on the patients and any changes that may have occurred over the previous shift.
2. Make the Rounds
The PMHNP will join the rest of the medical team for rounds on the patients. The team will vary but may consist of a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, and case manager.
3. Visit Patients
After morning rounds, most PMHNPs will physically go and see their patients as well as update them on plans for the day.
Depending on the type and severity of mental health illness, the patients might be seen in a common room or in their own room. They will also discuss progress in their treatment plans and any news of discharge of facility placements.
4. Place Orders
Once morning rounds are all complete, orders are placed to reflect the change in the plan of care for the day.
5. Tend to Patients
PMHNPs will continue to tend to their patients throughout their shifts, making any necessary changes to their medication regimen. In fact, PMHNPs, while specializing in mental health disorders, are also generally responsible for the overall health and well-being of their patients.
Pros and Cons of Being a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Being a PMHNP can be a rewarding career, especially in helping those that are struggling in their everyday lives. However, it can also be frustrating as mental health and illness are ongoing and often uphill battles for many patients. In fact, many patients’ mental illnesses are often compounded by substance abuse making the job of a PMHNP even more difficult.
- Work in a high-demand career
- Job security
- Help others
- Competitive salary
- Individualized care of patients
- Telehealth opportunities
- Advocate for patients
- Reduce the stigma associated with mental health disorders
- Work in nontraditional settings
- Emotional stress
- Can be dangerous depending on the work environment
- High-stress environments
- Ethical dilemmas
- Legal responsibilities
- High chance of burnout
Becoming a PMHNP is a fulfilling career, especially for those that are willing to put in the time and effort to make a lasting difference in their patients’ lives.
There are many reasons to become a PMHNP, but it’s important to remember that mental health is not always as easy to diagnose and fix as other diseases. To take the next step in your career, check out our list of the top psychiatric nurse practitioner programs.