With many patient visits prompted by psychosocial concerns, primary care facilities increasingly address complex behavioral health (BH) needs. Significant evidence indicates that integrating BH into primary healthcare enhances outcomes and access, yet many facilities still face challenges in real-world implementation.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that nearly one in every five adults in the USA has a mental illness. Providing care to these people and helping facilities to integrate BH is what psychiatric mental health nurses do. Equipped with profound professional skills and in-depth education, psychiatric nurse practitioners give patients guidance and treatment throughout their journey to wellness.
What is a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner?
A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse who cares for clients’ wellbeing and mental health. They provide management and assessment of mental illnesses and implement measures to attain overall psychological and physical wellbeing and balance for their patients.
How do PMHNPs help in comprehensive healthcare?
PMHNPs help families, individuals, and communities with a wide range of psychiatric services. They are responsible for assessing patients’ mental health status by studying their medical history, identifying risk factors that might affect the mental health of a patient, and conducting comprehensive psychiatric evaluations.
These nurses make diagnoses of the mental health of their patients based on their assessment before determining the best care plan. By using their knowledge of psychopharmacology and psychotherapy modalities, and in collaboration with other healthcare professionals, they put patients on a regimen of prescription medication and therapy to improve their mental health.
PMHNPs educate and support communities and families as they evaluate patients’ progress throughout their lifespans. They can also be pivotal in healthcare reform and policy development related to mental health issues and their treatment.
Breaking down the role of PMHNPs
The role of PMHNPs is vital in changing how mental health is perceived and lessening stigmas associated with mental health treatment. Psychiatric nurses serve as skilled educators, collaborators, and relationship builders.
Some of their duties include:
- Carrying out patient intake screening.
- Overseeing case management.
- Diagnosing and treating mental illness.
- Managing and monitoring psychotropic medication.
- Teaching self-care activities.
- Providing psychiatric rehabilitation and crisis intervention.
- Coordinating care,
- Making referrals.
Psychiatric nurses work in a range of settings. These include ERs, hospitals, addiction recovery facilities, nursing homes, inpatient and outpatient clinics, private practices, and government hospitals.
Some PMHNPs specialize in certain types of patients, such as seniors, children, or those suffering from substance abuse. Currently, all 50 states allow psychiatric nurses some level of prescribing authority, with more than 20 states specifying that responsibility further. These states allow advanced practice registered nurses, including PMHNPs, to order diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, and treat patients with the oversight of a physician under the authority of a state board of nursing.
Every mental health care professional must consider all the potential effective strategies for patients. PMHNPs also evaluate a patient’s health and physical symptoms to fully understand the patient’s wellbeing so that they can determine any underlying conditions and possible side effects of medications.
As part of a comprehensive care strategy, psychiatric nurses often collaborate and communicate with other key people in their patients’ lives. These include family members and healthcare professionals like primary care physicians and therapists.
Steps to become a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner
Individuals interested in the role will have to take some steps to become a PMHNP. Here is a general guide covering what the process entails.
- Become a registered nurse
The first step of how to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) is to complete a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing from a renowned institution such as Rockhurst University. The program here equips students with the necessary skills that will allow them to expand their career opportunities in psychiatric nursing health. This will help these individuals attain a registered nurse license in a US territory or state.
- Pass the NCLEX-RN examination
Nurses must pass the official RN licensing examination, the NCLEX-RN, to be certified as a registered nurse. After that, they can apply for state licensure as an RN.
- Apply for the accredited PMHNP programs
Whether it is a doctoral or master’s PMHNP program, nurses must select one accredited by Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. This is to ensure the program meets educational standards.
- Complete 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours
Nurses must have 500 faculty-supervised houses associated explicitly with the PMHNP role. This is a requisite to meet the requirements of the PMHNP-BC certification.
- Take the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner exam
Taking and excelling in the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program is necessary for nurses earn their PMHNP certification. This exam is administered by the American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC).
- Apply for a PMHNP certification that is state-specific
Nurses must also get the PMHNP certification from the state they wish to practice in. It is worth noting that different requirements depend on the state and differences in practicing laws, qualifications, and regulations. Practice laws in the state a nurse currently lives may not be similar to the state where they attended school.
Trends in PMHNP nursing
Growing recognition of mental health as a public issue has increased the number of people seeking care. Yet, access to mental health services remains challenging for many people in the US. Some people cannot find qualified mental health professionals in their area, and some may have to wait long durations for an appointment.
PMHNPs represent one of the fastest-growing non-physician specialties in healthcare. They are an emerging resource to help mitigate the shortage of mental care professionals in the US. Individuals can become some of the crucial people in advancing comprehensive health by becoming a PMHNP nurse today.