Working As A Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatry and the Nurse Practitioner
The sky is the limit for mental health nurse practitioners when it comes to career options and diversity in employment choice and opportunities.
Licensed mental health nurse practitioners are trained to diagnose, undertake therapy and prescribe medications for people with psychiatric illnesses, medical organic brain disorders and/or substance abuse issues. They are also licensed to provide emergency psychiatric services, psychosocial and physical assessment of patients, treatment plans and management of patient care.
Mental Health: A Great Specialization for Nurse Practitioners
As a mental health nurse practitioner, you'll get the opportunity to help and serve a broad range of people, from adults to children and teenagers – as well as their families. You’ll work in a variety of settings, including: primary care facilities, outpatient mental health clinics, psychiatric emergency services, skilled nursing, assisted living facilities, private practices, hospitals or community health centers. You also have the choice to work as a consultant or en educator for families or staff.
You will also have the freedom to work on your own in your choice of many locations throughout the United States. Mental health nurse practitioners are currently allowed to diagnose and treat patients without doctor involvement in 27 states, and can prescribe medications without the signature of a doctor in 19 states.
But all of this opportunity doesn’t come without some investment on your part. Becoming a mental health nurse practitioner takes about six to ten years of university education. You will need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and an approved Masters of Science in Nursing or Doctorate of Nursing Practice program that includes 600 clinical hours of training.
The Cost of Education
Starting in 2015, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) plans to make the Doctorate of Nursing Practice certification the entry level degree for mental health nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses – though no state has yet set any laws for the minimum degree.
If you are currently a registered nurse and would like to switch or specialize as a mental health nurse practitioner, the best way to make that happen is to apply for an entry-level mental health nurse position and work your way up from there. You can also go the route of education and obtain higher degrees and advanced practice certification.
While the cost of obtaining the required education can be in the tens of thousands of dollars, you will definitely be able to pay off any debt you take on quickly when you start working in the field. While salaries for mental health nurse practitioners are still less than doctors, you will be making good money. The pay scale depends on many factors, such as location, training and experience, but you can make between $40,000 and $120,000 US per year in this profession.
There is currently a shortage of mental health nurse practitioners in the United States, so your job prospects will also be good.
If you’re liking the sound of this, but still wondering if this might be the job for you, a good next step would be to do some volunteer work at institutions in your community where you will have the chance to meet some people with mental illnesses and their families. While you won’t get to see everything involved with a mental health nurse practitioner’s job, you will get starting point and a sense of how suited you are for this kind of work. If you take the next step and start a nursing program, you’ll get the chance to try out difference specializations including mental health and then have the opportunity to specialize in your chosen area of specialization.
To succeed as a mental health nurse practitioner you’ll need some basics like good communication and relationship skills, as well as a good knowledge of the basic and behavioral sciences.
While it takes a lot of time and money to gain the required certifications, working as a mental health nurse practitioner is a rewarding and challenging career that offers you great job and salary prospects, as well as a lot of flexibility for work environment and location. If it sounds right for you, this could be the career you have been looking for.
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: Microsoft Images
This article was written by John Winthrope, who believes that you can take advantage of the shortage in Mental Health Nurse Practitioners, and become one yourself.
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- As a mental health nurse practitioner, you’ll get the opportunity to help and serve a broad range of people, from adults to children and teenagers – as well as their families.
- You’ll work in a variety of settings, including: primary care facilities, outpatient mental health clinics, psychiatric emergency services, skilled nursing, assisted living facilities, private practices, hospitals or community health centers.
- While it takes a lot of time and money to gain the required certifications, working as a mental health nurse practitioner is a rewarding and challenging career that offers you great job and salary prospects.