Career Spotlight: Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

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A patient sits across a desk from a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner who listens to her talk.Almost 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. lives with a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Counselors, therapists, psychiatrists and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners are among the essential professionals who help individuals in the process of managing mental, behavioral, emotional and psychiatric disorders. Of these caring mental health professionals, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners have a strong background in the medical field.

To specialize in psychiatric-mental health, individuals can earn a master’s degree in nursing, such as the University of North Dakota’s online Master of Science in Nursing degree. With an advanced nursing degree, psychiatric-mental health nurses can help patients with mental health issues.

What Is a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?

Psychiatric-mental health nurses are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who’ve earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing. These advanced nurses specialize in holistic care, leading patients through the treatment and recovery process. Of the 290,000 nurse practitioners who are licensed to work in the U.S., 12,690 nurses currently work as psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Advanced nurses in psychiatric-mental health work alongside primary care providers and psychiatric care specialists. They often have their own practices and serve as the primary care providers for their patients. They refer patients to therapists, psychiatrists, counselors, rehabilitation facilities, community programs and other available resources.

What Does a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Do?

Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners differ from other APRNs. Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners primarily treat patients with depression, psychiatric disorders, anxiety, insomnia, mood disorders and substance abuse concerns, among other issues. They begin by meeting with patients to assess their psychological needs. They implement relationship-building skills to gain patient trust, since the process of recovering from mental health issues can cause individuals to remember and talk about traumatizing events or experiences.

After identifying patients’ mental health needs, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners create holistic treatment plans and can prescribe medications. They track patient progress and refer patients to specialists, if necessary. Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners are also trained to offer emergency psychiatric care when certain situations arise.

Work environments vary for psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners. Many work in psychiatric-mental health facilities as well as in hospitals, physicians’ offices, rehabilitation facilities or addiction recovery agencies. Many also have their own practices.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook and Salary

Most medical facilities across the country offer nurse practitioners competitive salaries. Nurse practitioners made a median annual salary of $109,820 in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While those in the lowest 10th percentile earned less than $82,460, those in the highest 10th percentile earned more than $184,180. Nurse practitioners in every specialty are in high demand. The BLS projects jobs in this field to grow by 45% between 2019 and 2029.

The median annual salary for nurse practitioners who specialize in psychiatric-mental health is about $108,000, according to August 2020 data from PayScale. The salary varies based on geographic location, education level, years of experience and job facility. Entry-level psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners can expect to earn about $100,100, while those who have 20 or more years of experience can earn about $114,500, according to PayScale.

Earn a Master of Science in Nursing Degree

Individuals interested in pursuing a rewarding psychiatric-mental health professional career can consider an education in the nursing field. Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners walk patients through the process of healing from various psychiatric disorders and other mental health-related issues. By offering a deep level of care and working as medical experts, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners make their communities better places.

Individuals interested in earning an online Master of Science in Nursing degree can explore the University of North Dakota’s program. The Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialization includes courses such as Psychopharmacology, Individual Therapy, Group and Family Therapies, Psych Diagnostic Reasoning and Role Development of the NP.

Learn more about how the program can help you pursue your professional goals as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner.

Recommended Readings

BSN vs. MSN: What Are the Benefits of a Master’s in Nursing?

Exploring the Types of Nursing Specialties and Salaries of Nurse Practitioners

What Is Health Policy and What Role Does It Play in Nursing?


American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Are You Considering a Career as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NP Fact Sheet

American Psychiatric Nurses Association, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses

National Institute of Mental Health, Mental Illness

PayScale, Average Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners