For nurses who've earned an RN or BSN, continuing education online through a master’s specialization or certificate program can open doors.


Much like a psychiatrist, a psychiatric nurse practitioner can diagnose mental illness and prescribe medication. Acting as therapist, psychiatric nurse practitioners help patients cope with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. They teach families about the patient’s condition and how to react in certain situations.

According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, psychiatric-mental health advanced practice registered nurses (PMH-APRNs) assess, diagnose and treat individuals and families dealing with psychiatric disorders or the potential for such disorders using their range of therapeutic skills, including the prescription of medication and administration of psychotherapy. PMH-APRNs often consult with various groups, corporations, communities and legislators.

“Acting as therapist, psychiatric nurse practitioners help patients cope with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.”

Obtaining an advanced degree

The PMH-APRN role is an advanced nursing role requiring extensive education in development, physical and mental health assessment, the diagnosis of mental health conditions, integration and implementation of care, psychopharmacology, psychotherapy, practice evaluation, consultation and liaison.

To apply these skills in practice, the proper educational degree is required. Advanced masters and doctoral degrees allow the PMH nurse to work in specific roles, including psychiatric primary care provider, psychotherapist, consultant and university educator.

You can obtain your board certification in psychiatric nursing through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Certification must be renewed every five years, to stay current on the latest research and professional developments. The practice of the psychiatric-mental health nurse (PMHN) as a clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner is considered an advanced specialty in nursing. APRNs practice as clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) or Nurse Practitioners

Certification for PMHNs at all levels is provided by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Need more information?

To learn more about careers in psychiatric-mental health nursing, online resources and libraries are likely the best options for finding journal articles and books on the specialty. Those interested in PMH nursing can call their state chapter of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association to speak with a PMHN in their area to get a better understanding of what's required.

In addition, the Nursing Knowledge Center (NKC) — the products and services division of the American Nurses Association — provides educational products and support services to both individuals and health care organizations. Developed for nurses by nurses, NKC workshops, online webinars, consultation services and publications support the association's mission to advance the profession.