What is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner? How to Become One?

Career Journey

A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Practitioner (PMHNP) is a specialized healthcare professional who delivers comprehensive mental healthcare services.

Aug 25
Dr Mohit Changani
AGM Medical Services at Cadila Pharmaceuticals
What is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner? How to Become One?

They perform biopsychosocial assessments, diagnose patients with mental illnesses, psychiatric disorders, and co-occurring disorders, and employ various treatment methods, including medication and psychotherapy management. 

PMHNPs work across diverse environments, including inpatient facilities, emergency departments, and community-based mental health services. 

The recognition of mental health's significance has grown, with mental well-being gaining parity with physical health. As the stigma surrounding mental health diminishes, more individuals are seeking psychiatric and mental health care, with Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Practitioners (PMHNPs) at the forefront of providing crucial care.


What is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner/ Psychiatric Mental Health Practitioner (PMHP)?

A Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse with specialized training to offer care to individuals dealing with mental health issues. Unlike registered nurses (RNs), PMHNPs possess the knowledge and expertise to address the mental health needs of patients across all age groups. 

They are capable of diagnosing mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, and can prescribe appropriate treatment. These nurses focus on mental health promotionpatient counseling, and providing treatment plans for individuals suffering from mental illnesses, disorders, or substance abuse problems.


How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

Step 1: Get a Degree

To start your journey toward becoming a registered nurse, you must earn either an ADN or a BSN from a recognized nursing program. 

If you have an ADN, you can take an extra step by pursuing a BSN degree or joining an accelerated RN to MSN program. This way, you can earn both your BSN and MSN simultaneously.


Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN

After completing your nursing education, you need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become a registered nurse. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) designed this test to assess your readiness for entry-level nursing practice. 

The exam includes questions about nursing concepts and scenarios where you decide the best course of action. It covers areas like client education, communication, caring, nursing process knowledge, and documentation.


Step 3: Gain experience as an RN

To become a PMHNP, aspiring students should explore potential degree programs and understand their entry prerequisites. 

While some nurse practitioner programs demand about two years of pertinent work experience, acknowledging its value in enhancing nursing skills and teamwork, others recognize the urgent need for nurse practitioners and accept RNs directly from their bachelor's or associate degrees. 

These accelerated programs equip RNs to excel as nurse practitioners, providing exceptional care with outcomes on par with experienced healthcare providers.


Step 4: Earn an advanced degree

Becoming a PMHNP necessitates completing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. 

The MSN, taking around two years after a BSN, focuses on clinical specialization. A DNP, the highest nursing education, spans up to six years and equips you not only for PMHNP certification but also for advanced clinical, leadership, and teaching roles. 

Keep in mind that requirements may evolve, possibly transitioning advanced practice nurses to a DNP level.


Step 5: Become a certified psychiatric nurse practitioner

Take the certification exam for Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner to become officially certified.


Step 6: Explore psychiatric nurse practitioner jobs

PMHNPs can find employment in different settings like psychiatric hospitals, private clinics, assisted-living homes, community mental health centers, schools, and drug and alcohol treatment centers. 

Those with doctoral degrees can also work as psychotherapists, psychiatric primary-care providers, and nurse educators at universities, and may even run a private practice in certain states in India.


You can find psychiatric nurse practitioner jobs on Docthub.com where you can directly apply for those jobs.


What do Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners do?

Psychiatric nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) diagnose and treat mental health conditions in patients of all ages by evaluating symptoms, assessing family history and health background, providing therapy, and monitoring treatment effectiveness. They collaborate with other healthcare team members like primary care physicians, psychologists, and therapists. PMHNPs conduct psychosocial assessments and offer emergency psychiatric care.


Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Job Responsibilities:

  • Utilize nursing, psychosocial, and neurobiological expertise for diagnosing and treating mental health challenges.
  • Build therapeutic relationships with clients and families, tailoring approaches to individual needs.
  • Conduct patient assessments, diagnosis, planning, treatment, and evaluation, often for extended periods.
  • Collaborate with healthcare peers, research, and educate communities to reduce mental health stigma.


In summary, PMHNPs play a vital role in holistic mental health care, offering personalized treatment, advocating for patients, and contributing to community well-being.


Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners Jobs

Psychiatric nurse practitioners work in diverse settings like psychiatric hospitals, clinics, assisted-living homes, and community centers. PMHNPs assess patients' symptoms, provide therapy, monitor treatment effectiveness, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals.

Their expertise in mental health care, therapy, and collaboration makes them valuable assets in improving patients' well-being. Refer to the psychiatric nurse practitioner job description for comprehensive insights into their responsibilities and contributions.


Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Salary Prospects

In India, the variations for psychiatric nurse practitioners salary can range from a minimum of ₹12,500 to a maximum of ₹40,000 per month. 

This salary outlook reflects the earning potential for students in this profession across different experience levels and settings.


Explore the top nursing colleges/ institutes in India on Docthub.com.




1.   What is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)?

A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse specializing in providing care and treatment for individuals with mental health challenges.


2. What are the main roles and responsibilities of a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

The main roles and responsibilities of a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner include diagnosing and treating mental health conditions and providing therapy.

3. What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a Psychiatric Nurse practitioner?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication and provide therapy, while a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner is an advanced nurse practitioner with similar capabilities in treating mental health conditions but not a medical doctor.

4. Where is the highest-paid nurse practitioner?

The highest-paid nurse practitioners in India are often found in cities like Pune, Karnataka, and Delhi.


5. Where do Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners work?

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners work in various settings such as psychiatric hospitals, private clinics, community mental health centers, and schools, among others.