Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner – Is It Your Calling?

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At its core, the profession of nursing intends to serve humanity. Nurses are the backbone of any medical organization and work tirelessly to assist patients and doctors alike. In a broader scope, the role of a nurse practitioner (NP) may look similar to that of a nurse, but they are figures of much higher power and authority. 

NPs are highly valued individuals in the world of health. And rightly so. To attain this position, they must undergo rigorous educational training consisting of evidence-based coursework and long hours of clinical rotations. But all these efforts are worth it because acquiring this status comes with several perks. Unlike registered nurses, practitioners have greater autonomy, work independently without supervision, start private practices, and have much higher salaries. Moreover, as a nurse practitioner, you are qualified to pursue numerous career opportunities. Depending on your interest, you can specialize in any field, like pediatric, geriatric, neonatal, or mental health. 

If you’re considering an advanced career in mental health, Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) might just be the role for you.

Want to figure out if it’s your calling? Read on below to make an informed decision. 

Who is a Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner? 

Setting foot into the field of psychiatric and mental health requires you to have immense compassion, empathy, and patience. If you find solace in helping others and want to utilize your skills to make an actual difference in the world, being a PMHNP is indeed your calling. As a PMHNP, you’ll deal with patients from all walks of life experiencing major emotional distress, trauma and mental health problems. You’ll be required to assess, diagnose, and treat your patients while directing them to relevant professional services if need be.

How to Become a PMHNP?

 To pursue this career path, NPs must clear their National Certification Examination and obtain their practice license. They must then acquire a degree specializing in psychiatric and mental health from an accredited program. Many institutes now offer online PMHNP for practitioners who want to study while simultaneously practicing their skills in the real world. Students can create personalized schedules that work for their routines and enjoy hassle-free learning from the comfort of their homes. 

Through this program, you’ll acquire the basic knowledge and skills to understand the human psyche and emotion. 

What Does a PMHNP Do?

Nurse practitioners in mental health are required to provide comprehensive psychiatry services to individuals, families, and communities they serve in. They assess which emotional, psychological, and behavioral disorders are most prevalent amongst members of a population. Mental health is still a taboo topic, which is why many patients knowingly choose to avoid treatment and suffer in isolation. Their illness largely impacts their day-to-day life, relationships, and career. As a PMHNP, it is your job to help every person who approaches you regardless of ethnicity, race, caste, or socio-economic background. 

Some key roles of a PMHNP include:

  • Evaluate the current mental health status of a patient by studying their medical history, conducting psychiatric evaluation tests, and hearing about their past experiences and traumas. 
  • Based on your interactions with the client, you must come up with a comprehensive conclusion about their current emotional state and highlight potential risk factors. 
  • Diagnose the patient’s mental health problems and draft an effective treatment plan as per the client’s needs and concerns. Collaborate with other doctors, nurses, and specialists to enforce a strict therapy and medication regimen for your patient. 

You must also educate and guide the patient as well as their family regarding their condition, prescribe medications, if need be, and schedule regular appointments to keep their mental health under constant check. 

Skills Needed to Excel As a PMHNP:

The job of a mental health nurse practitioner is emotionally and physically demanding. They deal with patients from diverse backgrounds with completely different experiences and struggles. To prevent themselves from burning out and manage their stress and workload with grace and efficiency, practitioners must master the following skills: 

  • Professionalism: 

Since the discussion on mental health can often be very sensitive for patients and their families, practitioners must remain professional at all costs. They must observe empathy and maintain a judgment-free tone while interacting with every client. Practitioners must also remember that they encounter individuals from diverse populations. Being mindful of their culture and ethnicity is necessary to foster a bond built on mutual trust and respect. 

The key to developing a healthy doctor-patient relationship is to create a safe space where the patient feels comfortable enough to be vulnerably honest and express their concerns without hesitation. Practitioners must establish trust and enable their patients to confide with them. Only if clients speak without barriers can you uncover the underlying cause behind their psychological illness. 

  • Analytical Skills: 

Mental illnesses are complex. Their signs and symptoms aren’t consistent and vary from one patient to another. While utilizing your unique knowledge of the human psyche, you must also be able to analyze diverse data and conduct research to gauge your patient’s current mental state. 

Similarly, various combinations of therapy and medication work for different people; a treatment strategy that helps one patient recover might not work for the next. Thus, practitioners must construct treatment plans personalized to the needs and requirements of each patient while considering their living environment and other influencing factors. 

  • Problem Solving:

Behind every mental illness and disorder, there is always unhealed trauma and residual issues. It is the job of a practitioner to not only identify the problem but also resolve it. They must figure out the root cause and confront it to help patients heal and move forward. However, the path to recovery isn’t linear, and there will be hurdles along the way. Practitioners must constantly re-evaluate their treatment plan, fund alternate solutions, and devise new strategies to tackle challenges as they arise. 

The Bottom Line: 

As a psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner, you will witness life at a level deeper than most. Each day on your job, you will encounter patients struggling to cope with mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. You will come across individuals who have given into toxic habits like alcohol, gambling, eating disorders, and harmful sexual tendencies. You will also treat major trauma, sexual violence, physical abuse, and child neglect victims. 

Therefore, this profession isn’t for the faint of heart. Instead, it’s for those who want to be a positive force of nature, make a difference, and leave an actual mark in the world. Only a few careers can allow you to better the lives of those around you, and PMHNP is one of the top contenders. 

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