MSN: Psychiatric & Mental Health Degree Programs & Career

Psychiatric-mental health nurses (PMHNs) treat patients of all ages with mood and personality disorders, which can include bipolar disorder, dementia, depression, and schizophrenia, to name a few examples. More so than most other types of nursing, psychiatric-mental health nursing requires the development of a therapeutic relationship between the caregiver and patient. Psychiatric and mental health nurses have expertise in being able to empathize, provide support, and demonstrate respect for the patient. While this type of nursing can be administered by an LPN/LVN or RN, obtaining a master’s degree in nursing and becoming an advanced practice registered nurse allows one to practice independently, offer direct care in a variety of settings, and prescribe medicine.

How to Become a PMHN

To become a psychiatric-mental health nurse, students typically complete the following steps:

  1. Complete an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program
  2. Earn a Registered Nurse Certification
  3. Meet the professional experience conditions
  4. Enroll and complete an MSN degree with a concentration in psychiatric-mental health nursing
  5. Obtain PMHN certification and proper licensure (requirements vary by state)

PMHN Salary and Career Information

The expected salary, career growth, and work environment for a PMHN might include:

  • According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salary for an RN in 2012 was $65,470. Nurses with a specialty generally earn higher wages than the average.
  • Job Prospects: Very good to excellent
  • Job Setting: Private practices, psychiatric and mental health treatment centers, hospitals, public health organizations, educational institutions, home health care agencies

PMHN Qualifications

To become a PMHN, students are typically required to meet the following job qualifications:

  • Hold a current and active RN license
  • Have a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in psychiatric mental health nursing
  • Obtain at least 30 hours of continuing education in psychiatric mental health nursing

PMHN Job Description

A PMHN is typically responsible for the following job duties:

  • Perform a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation that includes evaluation of mental status, self-harm behavior, substance use, health behaviors, trauma, and developmental and social history
  • Conduct individual, family, or group psychotherapy sessions and participate in crisis intervention activities
  • Collect data from multiple sources using assessment techniques and order diagnostic tests that are clinically appropriate for the patient
  • Develop a plan of care to address patients’ unique conditions and prescribe proper medication (prescriptive authority varies by state)
  • Provide educational and therapeutic support to patients on how best to manage symptoms and potential adverse effects of treatment options

MSN Degrees for Psychiatric & Mental Health