The need for mental health services continues to grow. According to a 2021 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, psychologists reported an increase from the previous year in the number of patients seeking treatment for anxiety, depression, sleep-wake disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and substance abuse and addiction issues.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), roughly 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental illness, making mental illness one of the nation’s most prevalent medical issues. Although the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to the rising number of people struggling with mental health issues, these issues can be triggered by work, family, money troubles, health problems, and more.
Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) care for those who are struggling with mental health issues. They work in settings such as health care facilities and private practices, and provide comprehensive mental health care services to individuals, couples, groups, and families.
Given the high demand for mental health services and competitive psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner salaries, many nurses are considering careers as PMHNPs. Those who are interested in pursuing this path should look into investing in their education with an online BSN to DNP program.
What Is a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?
A PMHNP is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) whose primary role is to assess, diagnose, and treat those with mental health or substance abuse issues. APRNs have a higher degree of autonomy than individuals in other nursing roles, and they can provide many of the same services as physicians, including making diagnoses and, in many states, prescribing medications.
Mental health issues are challenging for patients because they can affect their ability to function, their behavior, and their personal relationships. A person with extreme anxiety, for example, may not feel comfortable in crowded places, forcing them to avoid subways, busy restaurants, and airports, which can severely hamper their quality of life. With the help of a PMHNP, they may be able to work through their issues or receive medication to decrease their anxiety symptoms.
Other common mental health issues that PMHNPs treat include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar affective disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Dissociative disorder (DD)
- Eating disorders
PMHNPs perfectly illustrate the importance of empathy in nursing. They often work with patients who are at their absolute lowest point or who are struggling with problems they don’t understand. While PMHNPs might not have personal experience with their patients’ feelings, they are able to let their patients know they understand what they’re going through.
Additionally, skilled PMHNPs are expert communicators who can connect with their patients. They are also caring, compassionate, and positive in their outlook. These soft skills along with a patient-centered, holistic approach are vital when it comes to providing mental health care services.
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, most PMHNPs work in psychiatric mental health facilities, behavioral health/addiction clinics, and private practices. Their top clinical focus is behavioral health/addiction and psychiatry/psychology.
PMHNP Salary and Job Outlook
Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners’ salaries are among the highest of all NPs’ salaries. According to PayScale, the median PMHNP salary was approximately $99,200 per year as of February 2022. Those in the lowest 10th percentile had a median salary of around $75,000 per year, while those in the highest 10th had a median salary of around $127,000. Factors such as education, experience, job demand, and location can all influence salary.
With the need for mental health care services continuing to rise, all mental health professionals are in demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of positions for all nurse practitioners will grow by 52% between 2020 and 2030, much faster than the job market as a whole. This is good news not only for those who aspire to be PMHNPs but for nurse practitioners in all specialization areas.
A Nurse’s Role in Improving Mental Health
The increased demand for mental health services and the projected growth of nurse practitioner roles make becoming a PMHNP a promising career choice. In addition to good career prospects, PMHNPs have the added benefit of knowing they’re changing lives as they help patients overcome their mental health and substance abuse issues. PHMNPs’ education, skill set, and ability to connect with patients makes them uniquely qualified to work with those who are experiencing anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health problems.
For nurses who are interested in becoming a PMHNP, the first step is the right education. Hawai‘i Pacific University’s online Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice program meets the advanced degree requirement for PMHNPs, and prepares students for certification exams. With courses such as Advanced Pharmacology, Advanced Physical Assessment, and Advanced Nursing Research, the curriculum offers graduates a solid foundation in the skills they’ll need to become practicing PMHNPs.
Find out how Hawai‘i Pacific University can help you advance your career today.