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Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners have seen a rise in demand over the past few years. This increase is expected to continue for the next several years, as well. Working as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) could be the right path for you if you’re looking for steady work with plenty of opportunities available.

What Is a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?

You might know what a general nurse practitioner is, but what is a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner? This type of nurse practitioner focuses on providing mental health services to patients, from diagnosing mental health disorders to treating them. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) might provide therapy, prescribe antidepressants or other psychiatric medications, and provide emergency care, as needed.

What Do Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners Do?

PMHNPs provide diagnostic services, treatment, and other care for those who are struggling with mental health problems. This specialty in the nurse practitioner field offers a way for NPs to focus specifically on providing mental health care. PMHNPs might evaluate or treat patients with depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental health disorders. They might also help those who have substance abuse disorders. Some work in private psychiatric practices, while others provide these services in a local, state, or private hospital.

Reasons for an Increase in Demand for Psychiatric Nurses

Psychiatric nurse practitioners make up roughly 6.5 percent out of all licensed NPs in the U.S., according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Overall, there are over 385,000 NPs who are licensed to work in the U.S. While PMHNPs only make up a small percentage of NPs, the need for more of these practitioners is growing. As this demand continues, the percentage of PMHNPs should also increase.

Let’s take a look at a few of the probable reasons behind the growing demand for PMHNPs:

1. Increase in Mental Health Awareness

In recent years, there has been a shift toward raising awareness of mental health overall, including mental health disorders and eliminating the stigma that stubbornly adheres to the notion of seeking mental help. This increase is helping people become more aware of their own struggles while encouraging them to seek help. The focus on mental health awareness is also helping people identify mental health problems in loved ones so that they can help them seek care. In the past, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders were not usually discussed as openly. Getting help from mental healthcare professionals was also not encouraged as much. Raising awareness and motivating people to seek professional help is contributing to the demand for psychiatric nurse practitioners.

2. More Accessibility to Mental Health Care

The increased awareness of mental health disorders and other problems has the benefit of encouraging people to get help. Access to mental health care services hasn’t been easy in the past, though. Those who sought help might have had problems finding mental healthcare professionals or being able to access and afford this kind of care. With more people showing an interest in seeking professional care for mental health problems, accessibility to these services has improved. Since 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has helped make it easier for people to receive mental health services. Under this act, those who seek mental health services can get the help they need.

3. Projected Job Growth Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the outlook for nurse practitioners is 38 percent from 2022 to 2032. The job outlook for psychiatric NPs varies depending on whether you are working in mental health offices, outpatient mental health centers, private psychiatric hospitals, state psychiatric hospitals, or residential care facilities.

4. Care for Aging Populations

With people living longer these days, providing care for aging populations is becoming more important. This care includes mental health services for the elderly and those who are approaching their senior years. Keep in mind that older individuals often have a higher risk of developing certain mental health disorders, such as depression. This risk is even higher for those who are living on their own or those who don’t have a lot of social interaction. The ongoing pandemic and social distancing have made it even harder for older individuals to stay socially active. These conditions could lead to higher rates of depression and other mental health problems among seniors, resulting in a higher demand for PMHNPs.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Salary

According to BLS, nurse practitioners make an average salary of $125,900 annually. On the high end, NPs make over $208,080. On the lower end, NPs have an average salary of $91,250. Different factors can affect how much you make as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, such as the type of facility in which you work, your geographical location, years of experience, and degree.

If you are thinking of becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, please contact American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Post University. You can take our psychiatric nurse practitioner program online to build your PMHNP skills.

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a list of our accredited online nursing programs on our website or reach out directly! 

Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.