In general, PMHNPs are responsible for their patients’ mental health, from diagnosis to treatment to management. What a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner does on a day-to-day basis may vary based on that practitioner’s subspecialty. For example, many PMHNPs choose to further specialize in work with children, the elderly, or substance abusers. They operate in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, assisted living facilities, and private practices. Foundational to this career path is empathy and compassion while assessing mental health, communicating with patients and their families, and engineering appropriate courses of treatment. PMHNPs are careful listeners with strong attention to detail. They enjoy working with people, and are great communicators with ample experience in their field.
Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners use evidence to guide a course of treatment from start to finish. These healthcare professionals diagnose disease, interpret data, facilitate treatment planning, prescribe medications, and communicate each step to patients and their families. At times, PMHNPs assume the role of therapist, or alternatively help patients select the proper supplementary psychiatric health providers.
The specific responsibilities of a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner may vary depending on setting and subspecialty. However, there are some standard duties these specialists perform. Some common responsibilities of PMHNPs include:
- Assess and diagnose mental health conditions. The diagnosis of mental health disorders is foundational to what a PMHNP does. These nurse practitioners learn about the patient’s background, and gather evidence to determine and support a diagnosis. This requires an in-depth understanding of various mental health issues and symptoms.
- Develop and execute treatment plans. Once a diagnosis is established, the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner works with the patient to determine a course of treatment. Communication is vital during this stage, as the nurse practitioner must listen to the patient’s needs and assess his or her comfort level to determine the best path forward.
- Manage medicines and monitor progress. Individuals in this role are responsible for determining and prescribing appropriate medications and their dosages. They also track their patients’ response to their prescriptions to determine adjustments in treatment. In addition to maintaining detailed records of their clients’ medications, they also monitor and keep records of overall progress.
- Educate patients to promote wellness and prevent progression of disease. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners are responsible for working closely with their patients to discuss treatment options and determine the most effective therapies and medications. It is also within the purview of the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner to educate their clients on lifestyle factors, personal habits, and other behaviors that contribute to their mental health.