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Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: Scope of Practice, Salary, and Curriculum


Nurses who choose to attain a psychiatric mental health nursing certificate are pursuing an in-demand career that offers daily rewards and challenges in a variety of settings. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) must be active listeners who are well spoken and sensitive to their patients’ needs. They work with all age groups and income levels and must be supportive, understanding, nonjudgmental, and respectful to everyone. It’s a career that has a bright outlook, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the nurse practitioner field will grow 52% between 2019 and 2029.


Maryville University offers nurses the opportunity to specialize in and qualify to sit for the mental health nursing certificate exam. At the university, nurses can choose the online program level that best suits their career goals and needs, either the Post-Master’s NP CertificationMaster of Science in Nursing (MSN)BSN to DNP, or Doctor of Nursing Practice with Nurse Practitioner Concentration (DNP-NP).

What Is the PMHNP Scope of Practice

Because PMHNPs specialize in administering care to individuals with various mental health issues, their practice can cover a broad swath of environments. They can work in a traditional psychiatric or medical clinical setting, where they can focus their care on specific patient demographics, such as family medicine, pediatrics, and women’s health. They can also provide care in environments outside of a hospital or clinic, such as prisons or home health situations. Additionally, the PMHNP scope of practice can include treatment-based care to individuals who are dealing with substance or drug abuse disorders.


Some states grant PMHNPs full practice authority, which allows them to work independently. Other states require their work to be overseen by a supervising psychiatrist. It’s important for PMHNPs to fully understand the level of practice a state allows prior to applying to practice in that state.

PMHNP Job Description

The core duties of the PMHNP role involve assessing, diagnosing, and treating individuals with mental illness concerns. These nurse practitioners build assessments through psychiatric evaluations and examination of medical histories. Ultimately, they use this information to recommend comprehensive therapeutic strategies tailored to meet the specific needs of the patient. The PMHNP job description may include collaborating with other healthcare professionals to build care strategies and optimize their effectiveness. Some of the conditions PMHNPs treat include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.


In states that offer full prescriptive authority, PMHNPs can independently prescribe medication for patients as part of their care strategy. For states that do not have full prescriptive authority, PMHMPs must work with a supervising psychiatrist.

PMHNP Salary

The BLS reports the annual median salary of nurse practitioners as $109,820 as of 2019. According to PayScale, the median annual salary for a PMHNP as of March 2021 is around $109,900. The precise amount an individual can earn depends on several factors, such as level of education and years of experience. Job location may also play a key role in determining median annual salary. For example, PayScale reports the median annual salary for PMHNPs working in Los Angeles in March 2021 was 24% higher than the national average. New York City and Seattle salaries were 11% and 10% higher, respectively.

PMHNP Curriculum

Maryville University covers the PMHNP scope of practice through its PMHNP Certificate courses at the master’s and doctorate levels. Our online platform allows students to fit coursework into their busy schedules and professional lives. Nurses who are enrolled in these courses will experience the same rigorous curriculum and instruction as in traditional classroom settings. They will also be taught by the same experienced mental health nurse educators who teach the in-person courses.


The PMHNP concentration will include the following courses:

Psychopharmacology and Mental Health Assessment

Students earn three credit hours and cover the concepts of assessment, psychopathy, and differential diagnosis in a practical setting. Students learn how to prescribe psychotropic drugs in the management of mental health disorders for both chronic and acute presentations. This course emphasizes correct assessment of disorders and planning the best holistic treatment options.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Diagnosis and Management I, II, and III

These courses teach students how to apply advanced practice theories and models to mental health assessment and intervention processes. Students focus on care for adult and older adult patients in the first course, adolescents in the second course, and patients with complex lifespan mental health issues in the third course. Students use evidence- and research-based clinical decision-making to determine appropriate diagnosis and treatment for patients.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Diagnosis and Management Practicum I, II, and III

These practicum courses provide hands-on opportunities for advanced practice professionals to treat adults, adolescents, and lifespan patients with mental illness. Students in the courses will apply the psychiatric-mental health diagnosis and management theories learned in the classroom to patients and their families, and use these as the basis for clinical decision-making and treatment.

Earn Your Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Certificate

Mental health is an issue that is increasingly garnering attention, with the National Institute of Mental Health reporting that nearly 20% of adults in the U.S. deal with some form of mental illness. The PMHNP scope of practice plays a key role in helping patients manage or overcome these illnesses.


If you’re looking to advance your career in mental health nursing, discover how Maryville University’s online Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs can help prepare you for rewarding opportunities in the field.*


*Note. Clinical hour requirements for state licensure may vary by state. Students are encouraged to visit the Board of Nursing website for the state in which they intend to practice to verify specific requirements. Students may also reach out to our team of enrollment advisors for guidance.


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