Nursing Careers to Help Patients With Mental Health Issues

Nursing Careers to Help Patients With Mental Health Issues

Nurses who specialize in mental health care play an important role in the medical industry. Since one in four adults struggle with mental health issues, many persons need the support of medical professionals like nurses, doctors, and other health care workers to receive treatment.

However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), most people with mental illnesses do not have access to the proper treatment they need. A shortage of mental health nurses is one of the major contributors to the lack of mental health care options. 

If you are a nurse or health care professional, you can contribute to the improvement of the mental health care field in your own essential way. Read on to find out which nursing careers will give you the best chance of helping patients with mental health issues.

What Is a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse (PMHN)?

While other nurses focus on enhancing patients’ physical health, a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse (PMHN) concentrates on boosting patients’ mental health. According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA), a PMHN is a licensed nurse who specializes in mental health assessment, therapy, and patient assistance.

PMHNs typically take care of patients with mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, dementia, paranoia, eating disorders, substance abuse issues, etc. Some deal with patients of various ages, while others focus on a specific age group.

PMHNs usually work in cooperation with a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other professionals to provide mental health support to patients and their families. They commonly practice in a variety of health care settings, including hospitals, mental health centers, psychiatric institutions, correctional facilities, home health care organizations, private medical practices, and schools.

What Are the Two Types of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses?

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) states there are two main types of PMHNs: the Psychiatric-Mental Health Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC) and the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PMHNP-BC).

These two types of nurses share similarities since they both specialize in mental health nursing, but they also have crucial differences in terms of responsibilities and requirements.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC)

What Is a Psychiatric-Mental Health Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC)?

A Psychiatric-Mental Health Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC) is a Registered Nurse (RN) with proven skills and knowledge in psychiatric–mental health care.

An RN-BC may offer evaluation and assistance to patients with mental health issues, but they are not qualified to prescribe medications or administer psychotherapy treatments, unlike PMHNP-BCs who can.

How Do You Become a Psychiatric-Mental Health Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC)?

If you are interested to become an RN-BC, you need to earn at least an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). You should achieve a Registered Nursing (RN) license by passing the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN).

Most importantly, you are required to attain RN-BC credentials from the ANCC by passing the board certification exam. To be eligible to take the exam, you need to have an active RN license and a minimum of two years of full-time work experience as an RN. You should also have completed at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice and 30 hours of continuing education in psychiatric-mental health nursing in the past three years. RN-BC credentials are valid for five years.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PMHNP-BC)

What Is a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PMHNP-BC)?

A Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PMHNP-BC) — also known as an Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurse (PMH-APRN) — is a specialist who provides advanced care to patients with mental health issues.

Aside from offering mental health assessments and diagnoses like RN-BCs, PMH-APRNs are also qualified to prescribe medications and administer psychotherapy and other treatments to patients.

How Do You Become a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PMHNP-BC)?

You need to attain an advanced degree in nursing if you are considering pursuing a career as a PMHNP-BC.

You should earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), or another post-graduate degree in a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program. You must choose a program with official accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Finally, you need to achieve PMHNP-BC credentials from the ANCC by passing the board certification exam. You need to have an active RN license in order to be eligible to take the exam. Other requirements include 500 or more faculty-supervised clinical hours in psychiatric-mental health nursing and clinical training in at least two psychotherapeutic treatment modalities. PMHNP-BC credentials are valid for five years.

What Is the Salary and Job Outlook for Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses (PMHNs)?

A career as a PMHN can be financially rewarding. RNs who work in the mental health industry earn an average salary of $67,840 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Meanwhile, Nurse Practitioners (NPs) who specialize in mental health nursing earn an average salary of $126,970 each year.

The National Center for Health Workforce Analysis states that the job outlook for psychiatric NPs is projected to grow 18% from 2016 to 2030. With the right education and training, you can be one of them.

Are You Prepared To Be a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse (PMHN)?

Aside from being rewarding in a financial sense, the job of a PMHN is also fulfilling in a psychological sense. While it can be challenging to take care of patients with mental health issues, it can be gratifying to play a key role in helping others rebuild their emotional and mental health.

Are you a health care professional who has what it takes to be a PMHN? You can take the first steps to become an RN-BC by learning how to become a nurse.

Are you a nurse who is ready for new challenges? You can start preparing for a future career as a PMHNP-BC by finding out how to become an NP.

No matter what nursing career you choose in the mental health field, it will give you the opportunity to make a big difference in the lives of mental health patients.

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