What Is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and How to Become One
A psychiatric nurse practitioner is a highly educated healthcare professional who has completed all the requirements to become licensed nurse practitioner plus additional education and training in psychiatric care. As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you help patients facing a wide range of mental health challenges including anxiety, schizophrenia, depression, addictions, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and more. Treatments include therapy and medication as deemed necessary after thorough assessment.
To become a licensed psychiatric nurse practitioner, you must first complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Most psychiatric nurse practitioners then complete their registered nurse licensing requirements. Your education must then continue with a master’s degree program, usually in a specialized area of psychiatric nursing. Upon completion of the degree, you must complete the required clinical hours and exams to become licensed as a psychiatric nurse practitioner.
A licensed psychiatric nurse practitioner is legally allowed to conduct therapy as part of their prescribed treatment plan. In most cases, however, the therapeutic component of a patient’s treatment is conducted by mental health counselors, social, workers, therapists, or psychologists. These professionals are not legally able to assess a patient’s need for medication nor prescribe it, whereas licensed psychiatric nurse practitioners and psychiatrists are. Therefore, assessment for medication tends to be the focus for psychiatric nurse practitioners.
It takes many years to become a licensed psychiatric nurse practitioner, but the exact amount of time varies depending on each student’s circumstances. A bachelor’s degree in nursing requires four years in most cases. Nurses then must complete the requirements to become registered nurses (RNs) and many take this time to work for awhile in this field and gain experience. A master’s degree in psychiatric nursing can take 2 or more years, depending on the student’s course load. You must then complete clinical hours and pass the licensing exam, which can take a year or more.