Treating mental health is just as important as caring for physical health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five U.S. adults live with some type of mental illness and this number is expected to grow.
Mental illness includes both occasional and long-term conditions such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and many others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These conditions can also make you more susceptible to other physical health problems such as heart disease, diabetes or stroke.
Earning your master’s degree as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) can prepare you to help patients who might be struggling with mental conditions. PMHNPs diagnose and treat patients by providing psychological consulting, prescribing medication, monitoring a patient’s condition and more.
If you’re thinking about becoming a PMHNP, here are five things to keep in mind:
1. It’s a growing field
There’s a growing demand for nurses with their psychiatric mental health degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 52% growth between 2019 and 2029 for all nurse practitioners. The National Center for Health Workforce Analysis estimates the demand for PMHNPs will grow 18% from 2016 to 2030. With this in mind, the country will need an estimated 250,000 additional mental health professionals within the next five years.
2. You’ll need a degree and certification
To start your career as a PMHNP, you’ll need experience in the field and the right education. When looking at programs, it is important that you find a school that offers an accredited program so that you will be qualified to work after graduation. With Herzing University’s PMHNP programs, you will complete classroom work and clinical training to help prepare you to enter the field. After graduating, you’ll be qualified to sit for the PMHNP board certification exam from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
3. You might work different hours
Being a PMHNP, your schedule may differ from other nurses. PMHNPs can work in a variety of healthcare settings such as hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, prisons and schools. While many nurses may work 12 hour days, PMHNPs will generally work eight hour days, five days a week in outpatient care units. If you work in a hospital, however, you may work a similar 12-hour nursing shift. Before you search for job opportunities, it helps to determine which work environment and schedule will work best for you.
4. Every patient is different
As a PMHNP, you can expect to work with a diverse patient demographic. Similar to family nurse practitioners (FNP), you’ll receive training to work with a variety of patients, ranging from pediatrics to geriatrics. Your patients will also present a wide variety of health concerns, which could require specialized or unique treatment plans and care. Some patients may need psychological counseling while others may need prescribed medication.
5. Telehealth plays an important role
Technology has played an evolving role in healthcare, and lately, there has been a greater emphasis on telehealth. Telehealth is the use of electronic information and communication technologies to support clinical healthcare, health education and healthcare administration. While this change is felt across the healthcare industry, it affects PMHNPs. Not only does telehealth enable patients who cannot travel or who live in rural areas to access healthcare, but it also lessens the stigma that some patients may feel while seeking help. Herzing recognizes the importance of telehealth, which is why it has been incorporated into its curriculum to prepare students for these changes in the industry.
Lastly, many of the most successful PMHNPs also have some or all of these qualities:
- Leadership. As a PMHNP you are a nursing leader. You will have patients, as well as other nurses who may look to you for guidance and help. You also have more responsibility since you can prescribe medication and monitor patient care.
- Patience. All nurses must be understanding of the difficulties patients may face during their recovery or while they seek long-term care. You will likely work with people who will suffer from both mental and physical ailments, which is why it’s vital to have patience as you offer treatment.
- Critical thinking skills. You will need to have confidence in yourself and your abilities to make decisions quickly. Every day brings something new, so you’ll need to be ready to take charge of a situation and find effective solutions to problems.