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What Do Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners Do?


Nursing is a rewarding and diverse field that allows you to help patients manage their health in a number of ways. With a variety of specialties to choose from, you may be considering what route to take with an advanced degree such as the one offered through Maryville University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice programs program.


One option is to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). In this role, you can help families, groups, and individuals address various mental issues and help put them on the road to recovery. Here’s a look at what a psychiatric nurse practitioner does and why becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner can be a good choice for you.

Why Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

The high demand for qualified psychiatric nurse practitioners stems in large part from the increased normalization of mental health issues. The lessening of the stigma surrounding mental health, and the increased understanding of issues like PTSD and depression, have helped diminish negative preconceptions about seeking mental care. Those considering a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner can enter the field to meet this increased demand.


Becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner can be an ideal choice for individuals who want to integrate a holistic, relationship-building approach to care delivery — an approach that meets individuals at difficult points in their lives and guides them toward well-being. This can be rewarding not only on a care delivery level, but also on a personal level.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Job Description

Psychiatric care involves assessing, diagnosing, and treating individuals with psychiatric disorders. This also includes screening high-risk patients to determine the potential of developing psychiatric disorders in the future. Advanced practice psychiatric mental health nurses may also prescribe medications and perform psychotherapy, contribute to policy development, and assist in healthcare reform. They may own a practice or work in communities, hospitals, or corporations. Some psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners may function as consultants or liaisons to patients and families with complex issues and concerns.


The independent authority of a psychiatric nurse practitioner varies by state. While some states allow psychiatric nurse practitioners full practice and/or full prescriptive authority, other states require them to work with a supervising psychiatrist. It’s important to understand your state’s requirements prior to establishing a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Daily Duties

The duties conducted by psychiatric mental health nurses can vary depending on the specialized niche of care. Some of these specialized niches, per the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, include the following:


  • Child/adolescent mental health
  • Emergency nursing
  • Geropsychiatric nursing
  • Military mental health


The role of a psychiatric nurse practitioner has common responsibilities regardless of niche or specialization. They assess and analyze a patient’s condition to fully understand patient needs, a task that requires strong analytical and problem-solving skills. This analytical process could include identifying several aspects of the patient’s behavior and their stressors, mood, coping methods, and level of self-awareness.


Psychiatric nurse practitioners may use their interpretation of these assessments to build individualized treatment strategies for patients. They often work with other care professionals to coordinate a cohesive care strategy.

Use of Technology Tools

The use of technology plays an increasingly prominent role in psychiatric nursing care. Several technologies can help patients with mental issues, from basic communication channels like text messaging to reach a crisis center, to sophisticated apps that can track an individual’s behavioral patterns.


It is important for psychiatric nurse practitioners to understand how to integrate technical data into their evaluations. Technology can also help psychiatric nurse practitioners conduct other key daily duties, such as the organization and maintenance of electronic patient records.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners Are in High Demand

In the healthcare industry, psychiatric specialties are in demand. The reason for this is not unique to the psychiatric arena, but is something that affects healthcare as a whole: the growing physician shortage. The result of this shortage is an influx of patients who need services without a proper number of psychiatric-focused physicians to help them.


The demand for nurses in psychiatric specialties is high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the projected job growth for nurse practitioners, including those specializing in psychiatric nursing care, is 45% between 2019 and 2029.


The greater demand for nurses coincides with a dramatic uptick in reported cases of depression and anxiety, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a report by Mental Health America, the number of individuals who took an anxiety screening rose 93% from January to September 2020, while depression screenings rose 62% during that same timeframe.


The consistent need to get patients in the door for the treatment they need remains a key concern. Mental Health America reports that 19% of surveyed adults say they have some sort of experience with mental illness, a number calculated prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, 24% of these adults report an unmet need for treatment.


With such high demand for service providers in this arena to care for existing patients and help new ones, the demand for more nurses to pursue this specialty will likely only grow.

Job Growth and Salary

The 45% job growth projection the BLS gives for nurse practitioners stands well above its 4% growth projection for other professions. It also outpaces the projected job growth for registered nurses, which the BLS predicts will be 7% between 2019 and 2029.


Additionally, the BLS reports a May 2019 median annual salary of $109,820 for nurse practitioners, a broad field that includes psychiatric nurse practitioners. Factors such as years of experience and the job’s location can contribute to the compensation an individual may receive.

Prepare for a Dynamic Role in Healthcare

As the understanding of mental health grows, the need intensifies for qualified psychiatric nurse practitioners who are equipped to deliver quality care that can improve patients’ well-being. If you are interested in making a difference as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, your online degree can help.


Maryville University offers a number of different online degree programs for aspiring and experienced nurses. These include the Master of Science in Nursing, the Post-Master’s NP Certificate, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice with Nurse Practitioner concentration.


Learn more about which option is the right fit for you.


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