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What Does It Take to Be a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

The right personality and education can help you reach your nursing goals.

Demand for nurse practitioners, including psychiatric nurses is expected to grow by 26% by the year 2028 with and additional 62,000 positions expected to become available in that same time frame,1 making psychiatric nursing one of the fastest-growing specializations in its field. And at the top of the psychiatric nursing profession are psychiatric nurse practitioners. These highly trained men and women—all of whom have earned at least a Master of Science in Nursing—are serving communities around the U.S. and the world, bringing psychiatric care to those in need. It’s a great profession for anyone who wants to make a difference in people’s lives. But how do you know if you’re cut out for it? Here are some of the things it takes to become a successful psychiatric nurse practitioner.

Emotional Intelligence

Psychiatric nurse practitioners have many of the same responsibilities as a psychiatrist. They diagnose mental illness and prescribe medications, but they also provide mental and behavioral health therapy. This includes counseling patients suffering from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and other serious mental health issues. To be a good therapist, you need good emotional intelligence. This means you need the ability to understand other people’s emotions and then connect with them on a meaningful level. If you’ve often been told you have a lot of empathy, you probably have high emotional intelligence.

What Does It Take to Be a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?


Treating mental health issues takes time and the road to good health can include multiple bumps and reversals. Additionally, people seeking a mental health counselor are not always forthcoming about all of their struggles, or immediately responsive to advice. All of this means that, to be a good psychiatric nurse practitioner, you need to be a patient person. You have to allow healing to take its often-slow course.


When in treatment for mental health issues, people will reveal many things about themselves. On occasion, they may reveal opinions or choices that you’ll find disturbing or even immoral. While you don’t have to alter your worldview to be a good psychiatric nurse practitioner, you do have to be tolerant of all kinds of people who have made all kinds of choices. If a patient feels morally judged by you, he or she is unlikely to respond well to treatment. You’ll do much better as a psychiatric nurse practitioner if you’re the kind of person who makes people feel accepted.


Patients with mental health issues can have emotional outbursts. If you work in the mental health field long enough, a patient is likely to direct an outburst at you. To last as a psychiatric nurse practitioner you have to be able to endure the verbal abuse you may receive from your patients. If you’re the type of person who can keep standing when faced with adversity, you likely have the fortitude you’ll need to work with mental health patients.

A Love of Learning

Psychiatric medicine is always evolving. Each year new studies, guidelines, and treatments alter the mental health field. To keep up, you have to read journals, attend conferences, and always be on the lookout for new information that pertains to psychiatry and mental health therapy. On top of that, psychiatric nurse practitioner certification requires you to complete a certain number of continuing education hours every 5 years to maintain your credentials. The good news is that if you love learning, you shouldn’t have much trouble staying informed.

An MSN Degree

Although it is a graduate-level degree, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is considered an entry-level requirement for all nurse practitioners. How do you go about earning an MSN degree? While there are many nursing schools you can attend, not all of them may be a good fit, particularly if you are a working professional. That’s why you might want to look into online MSN programs.

Online learning is an excellent choice for anyone looking to advance their education without upending their life. When you choose to earn your master’s in nursing online, you can stay in your current job and city. Few universities offer an MSN degree with a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner specialization that is fully online. Walden University is one of those few and their degree programs are specifically designed with the working professional in mind.

Being a psychiatric nurse practitioner can be an incredibly rewarding career for those with the right personality. You can put yourself on the path to this career by enrolling in an online MSN program.

Walden University is an accredited university offering an online MSN degree program with a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner specialization. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,