Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Career Info and Education Requirements

Psychiatric nurse practitioners, also referred to as mental health nurse practitioners, provide patients with full psychiatric care in hospitals and healthcare clinics. Specific job responsibilities include assessing, diagnosing and managing treatment of psychiatric disorders, medical-mental conditions and substance abuse problems. Psychiatric nurse practitioners typically work in hospitals, while some others work in nursing homes and private clinics.

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Career Info for a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric nurse practitioners provide advanced treatment to patients with psychological disorders. They're advanced practice, registered nurses who offer both basic and detailed forms of care. They assess patients' needs and develop plans of treatment, as well as assist patients with everyday tasks, such as eating, bathing and getting dressed.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners must be prepared to work with patients who are uncooperative, disoriented or aggressive. They must also be able to meet the physical demands of the job; this includes spending significant periods of time on their feet, as well as being immersed in a potentially stressful environment.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the demand for registered nurses in general, including nurse practitioners, is expected to rise as the baby boomer generation nears retirement age ( In fact, the BLS projected a 22% growth in employment opportunities for nurses between 2008 and 2018. As of May 2009, the mean annual wage for all registered nurses was $66,530.

Education Requirements

A psychiatric nurse practitioner must complete regular nurse practitioner education and training, which generally takes at least six years of college. Those six years are composed of a 4-year undergraduate nursing program followed by a 2-year nurse practitioner master's program that includes psychiatric nursing. Nursing students take courses in topics like physiology, health and community wellness in addition to general education courses in the humanities. Many of these programs also offer specialized training in the field of psychology. Additionally, psychiatric nurse practitioner programs are available nationwide for current registered nurses who are interested in pursuing psychiatric nursing.


In addition to graduating from an approved nursing program, all practicing nurses need to obtain licensing. This requires passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, or NCLEX-RN. Various state boards of nursing may have additional requirements as well.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics