Here are five facts that psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners considering working in psychiatric hospitals should know.

Patients attending a group therapy session.Between 2003 and 2013, the number of psychiatrists per 100,000 people decreased by about 10%.1 A shortfall in mental health providers often leads to a higher rate of hospitalizations, as patients are unable to get psychiatric treatment on an outpatient basis before symptoms become severe.

As the number of mental health doctors decreases, the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner can play a vital role in filling the critical need for additional practitioners equipped to provide quality mental health care to psychiatric patients.

What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?

A nurse practitioner is an experienced and certified professional who has obtained a specialized MSN degree in order to treat patients, often working closely with physicians as well. A psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner2 specializes in the treatment of mental illness and has received specialized training in that area. A psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner may recommend and prescribe psychiatric medications, provide psychotherapy, and create holistic health treatment plans for patients across their lifespan.

Five Facts About Psychiatric Hospitals

As a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, career opportunities are available in outpatient settings as well as psychiatric hospitals, which differ from medical facilities. Here are five facts to be aware of if you are considering working in a psychiatric hospital setting.

  1. The number of psychiatric hospital beds is decreasing. The total number of hospital stays for mental health/substance use complaints increased by 12.2% between 2005 and 2014.3 However, at the same time, fewer psychiatric beds were available. Some hospitals have removed psychiatric beds because they do not bring in as much money, and some state psychiatric hospitals have also been closing.1
  2. Psychiatric hospitals do not provide medical care.4 Psychiatric facilities do not have the equipment or sufficient staff to treat medical conditions. Although psychiatric hospitals do have family medicine doctors and pediatricians on staff who come in and evaluate and treat patients, this is more like outpatient family care than hospitalization. Medical conditions take priority, so a psychiatric patient may need to be transferred to a medical hospital temporarily to have those concerns addressed.
  3. Psychiatric patients are often unclear about the length of their hospital stay.4 Many patients in psychiatric hospitals are involuntarily admitted, and are first seen in emergency rooms. Frequently these patients are told that there is a 72-hour mandatory stay, which can be misleading. The length of inpatient stay in a psychiatric hospital depends on response to treatment, just as with any hospital stay.
  4. Psychiatric patients are active during their hospital stay.4 A bedridden mental health patient will get little benefit from a psychiatric hospital. Patients who are mobile are required to take part in many activities throughout the day, such as seeing a therapist, group therapy sessions, and other activities.
  5. Similar psychiatric patients must be together in same unit for best treatment.4 One of the reasons that psychiatric beds are not always available is because there are different patients for different beds. A patient with depression would not be placed in the same unit as an elderly dementia patient. Not all psychiatric patients can be put together in the same unit.

Responsibilities of a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

As a psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner, you could be responsible for carrying out the following responsibilities:2

  • Performing patient assessments
  • Developing treatment plans
  • Prescribing medications
  • Collaborating with doctors and giving patient referrals
  • Maintaining detailed patient records
  • Assessing effectiveness of treatment
  • Educating family and community on mental health concerns

How to Become a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

If you are interested in becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner, a good first step is to earn an MSN degree with a specialization in psychiatric and mental health care. You can grow your professional skills and value by earning your master’s degree. Walden University offers an online master in nursing Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) specialization, one of the few PMHNP programs offered fully online.

This psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner online MSN program will teach you to assess, diagnose, provide therapy for, and prescribe medications for patients with psychiatric disorders, medical organic brain disorders, and substance abuse problems. This specialized Master of Science in Nursing curriculum also includes a strong pharmacology component and is designed to help you learn advanced skills and receive real-world training and experience through a master’s in nursing online practicum for treating children, adults, groups, and families.

If you currently hold a BSN, Walden offers a special BSN to MSN track. There is also an RN to MSN track designed for nurses who need to earn their BSN and wish to continue through to their master’s.

To obtain your master’s degree in nursing with a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialization at Walden, you’ll need to complete an online nursing school curriculum of a total of 81 quarter credits, which includes:

  • 26 credits of foundation courses
  • 20 credits of core courses
  • 35 credits with 640 practicum hours for the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialization

Walden’s online MSN program Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialization can help you advance in your current job or steer your nursing career in a fulfilling new direction. Completing a Walden University master in nursing Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program can inform and equip you to improve results for your patients and effectively handle the many mental healthcare challenges that may come your way.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialization. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


1 Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/demystifying-psychiatry/201709/trends-in-the-treatment-psychiatric-illnesses
2Source: https://www.nursepractitionerschools.com/faq/what-is-a-psychiatric-np
3Source: http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/fixing-the-system/features-and-news/3877-research-weekly-hospitalization-trends-in-mental-illness
4Source: https://thehospitalleader.org/things-to-know-about-psychiatric-hospital

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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