Psychiatric disorders are presently the third most common cause for U.S. hospitalization in adults aged 18 to 44. The NAMI reports that one in five Americans (43.8 million) experiences mental illness each year. Some of the most prevalent psychiatric conditions are anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance dependence, dementia, and bipolar disorder. Attaining good mental health is essential for physical well-being, satisfying relationships, and personal growth. Psychiatric treatment can decrease the number of general medical visits by up to 90 percent. One critical member of the mental health team is the psychiatric nurse practitioner, a CRNP dedicated to the mind and behavior. Psychiatric nurse practitioners play a pivotal role in empathetically guiding patients toward recovery from mental illnesses.


Employment survey results on depict a median yearly salary of $100,041 for certified nurse practitioners working full-time in psychiatric units. This could equate to a median hourly wage of $48.08, or $3,461 per biweekly paycheck. Psychiatric nurse practitioners generally reap bonuses, social security, retirement, insurance, and vacation for an average total compensation of $137,808 each year.

Beginning Salary

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners with under three years of experience in psychiatric-mental health settings can expect a starting salary around $86,000. As clinical judgment is improved, senior psychiatric nurse practitioners can eventually bring home over $120,000. With overtime and bonuses considered, compensation can reach $150,000 per year or more.

Key Responsibilities

Psychiatric nurse practitioners expand beyond customary RN responsibilities to assist psychiatrists and medical doctors in treating patients with mental or emotional disorders. Psychiatric nurse practitioners conduct intake interviews to assess each new patient’s symptoms and history. They’re involved in mental status examinations to document criteria for DSM diagnoses. Psychiatric nurses give input for customizing and implementing mental health treatment plans. Most are trained in behavioral therapy to counsel patients through panic attacks, drug withdrawal, and other psychological events. Other important duties include administering prescribed medication, preparing one-on-one or group therapy sessions, organizing social events for inpatients, and educating caregivers. Psychiatric nurses often apply “de-escalation” techniques to soothe patients’ emotional distress.

Necessary Skills

Assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients who often lack physical symptoms takes a unique skill set. Psychiatric nurses must have exceptional listening skills to understand patients’ problematic feelings and behaviors. Communication skills are critical since psychiatric nurse practitioners collaborate with families, doctors, psychologists, and other therapists. Acting with non-judgmental compassion and patience is a must because patients are typically fearful or hesitant of their treatment. Quick thinking skills help psychiatric nurses effectively handle emergency situations, especially with suicidal patients. Psychiatric nurse practitioners should possess organizational skills to record patient histories and medications. Employers also seek good decision-making, stress management, observational, and problem-solving skills.

Degree and Education Requirements

Most psychiatric nursing practitioner jobs are given to NPs who have completed a master’s level degree in psychiatric-mental health nursing. However, first it is necessary to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) If you’ve started out as an RN with only an associate’s degree, you may pursue an RN-BSN programs conveniently online to further your training for psychiatric care. Nursing schools should be accredited by the CCNE or ACEN for industry recognition. Going the extra step to receive a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) will open advanced practice roles like psychiatric nurse practitioner. Doctor of Nursing Practice programs could lead to leadership as Chief Nursing Officer (CNO).

Pros and Cons of the Position

Choosing psychiatric-mental health as your NP specialty will deliver both advantages and drawbacks. On a positive note, psychiatric nurses reap the intrinsic reward of providing much-needed support to patients enduring emotional strife. An AMN Healthcare survey found that 82 percent of psychiatric nurses are satisfied with their choice. Psychiatric nurses receive an above-average salary with excellent benefits. Nursing jobs are growing rapidly due to field shortages, which makes job hunting less stressful. Psychiatric NPs also have great career mobility for becoming nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists. However, psychiatric nursing is a multi-faceted, fast-paced niche where tension and aggression run high. In 24-hour facilities, NPs can work long shifts during evening and overnight hours. There can be many legalities involved, especially when dealing with criminal offenders. Results-oriented nurses could become frustrated with psychiatric nursing since progress is quite slow. Continuing education is also a significant investment for psychiatric NPs.

Getting Started

Earning a nursing degree may be the first step, but building clinical experience beyond the classroom is perhaps the most important. Nursing majors should request practicum, co-op, or internship placements in inpatient psychiatric units. Being exposed to the spectrum of mental health conditions early is imperative. At graduation, you’ll have to pass the NCLEX-RN exam through your state’s board of nursing. A qualifying score will license you for entry-level nursing positions. Working in an acute or intensive care unit for two to three years may be required before advancing into psychiatrics. Becoming board certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is optional yet recommended. The Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing designation certifies RNs for five years after at least 2,000 practice hours. Becoming a member of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) could aid in networking too.

Future Outlook

Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce projected that there will be 1.6 million nursing jobs opening through 2020. Around 700,000 will be newly created while the other 880,000 will be replacements for retiring baby boomers. Estimates from nursing schools nationwide show that the RN workforce will face a shortage of nearly 194,000. That’s primarily because growing insurance coverage has expanded the patient pool, which includes nearly 70 million adults over 65. Psychiatric nursing will be in-demand because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires group health plans to cover mental health treatment. Therefore, psychiatric NPs will need to treat patients at psychiatric hospitals, drug rehab centers, inpatient clinics, outpatient recovery programs, prisons, and private practices.

Individuals looking to blend nursing with psychology and counseling could find that becoming a psychiatric nurse is the best fit. Psychiatric NPs are caring clinical staff who have specialized methods for helping patients cope with complex mental health disorders. From schizophrenia to anorexia, psychiatric nurse practitioners coordinate treatment plans with licensed doctors to minimize the disorder’s affect on daily living. Specializing as a psychiatric nurse practitioner will allow you to support patients’ journey towards a happier, more productive life.


Cheapest Accredited Online RN-BSN Nursing Programs to Most Expensive- A Complete List