How can I become a nurse practitioner in the behavioral and mental health field?

  1. Hi,
    I'm an undergraduate nursing student at the University of Texas at Austin. I plan on graduating with a BSN in nursing and applying to a graduate school to receive a masters in nursing. Ultamalty I want to be a nurse practitioner in the behavioral and mental health dept. ok here is an extended explaniation of my situation so bare with me please!!! I have seen a variety of psychiatrists who for some reason or another seemed very stuffy. I was refered to a nurse practitioner who did the same thing as the psychiatrist only much better!! I am intrested in following in the nurse practitioners footsteps. My questions are as follows:
    1. Is getting a masters in nursing the only way of pursing this career?

    2. If so will someone refer me to graduate schools that I can attain a masters in the field of psychiatric nursing?

    3.What is the pay?

    4. Do I have to work as a RN before going to graduate school?

    5. I heard that NP in the psychiatric field can have thier own practice and prescribe meds is this correct?


    THANK YOU SOOOOO Much Jennifer
    Last edit by Jennifer Pesina on Mar 13, '02
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  2. 14 Comments

  3. by   Mary Dover
    Hi Jennifer,
    Sounds like we have the same career goals. I have been in psych/mental health nursing for 12 years. I have an AD. I have done quite a bit of research over the last year or so, re availabilty of Psych NP programs, and sadly, have found they are few and far between. Here in my state (NC), UNC Chapel Hill is "in the process of developing" a Psych NP program. The only other program I could find that was anywhere near where I live was at a university in Columbia, SC (can't remember the school). I cannot answer all your questions, as I still have so many of my own, and it is quite difficult to get input from folks. I don't know why, perhaps it's because there are few such NPs or so
    few people with an interest in it.
    I am quite sure you do have to have a master's degree, to get
    into such a program.
    As far as prescriptive authority, I would imagine it has to do with regulations in the state where you end up practicing.
    I too have met some 'stuffy' psychiatrists in my time, but fortunely have worked with some great ones. I have recently handed in my resignation at the county outpatient clinic where I have been employed for the past 7 years. Politics and state funding (or lack thereof), as well as the fact that I have been the only nurse in my clinic for several months now, have contributed to my recent job dissatisfaction. But I will always truly love the work I do. The years I have been there have truly been a wonderful experience. Perhaps the most important lesson was that, without further education at this point in my nursing career, I have reached my plateau. The 2 psychiatrists I have had the good fortune of working with for the past few years, have sincerely encouraged me to pursue my endeavors. They have added to my level of confidence that I CAN DO THIS.
    Please stay in touch. I have found so few people to correspond with, who share this interest. Good luck to you Jennifer.
    Mary
  4. by   Jennifer Pesina
    Thank you so much for your reply!!!!! I will definaltey keep in touch and foward any information that I find!!!! Thank you Jennifer
  5. by   JudeVC
    Hi

    I believe there are a number of Psych/ Behavioral Health NP programs in the Northeast and the West coast. Initially the Psych Nurse grad programs were CNS programs but many are now NP programs which include physical assessment and pharmacology. Many Psych CNS programs included one or more of these also. Yes, these are Master degree programs.

    You might be interested in the American Psychiatric Nurses Association website (www.apna.org) which has a lot of information about Psych nursing and even a list of grad programs.

    Judy
  6. by   Jennifer Pesina
    Thank you so much for you reply! It was extremly helpful!!!
    Thank you soo much Jennifer
  7. by   Eva Bell
    Hi

    I agree, that to find information about the new Psych Mental Health NP, especially Texas programs is difficult. It seems there are few RN's out there interested in this role and specialty and most programs require full time enrollment at their university for Psych Master's Programs and enrollment is limited or only offered once every couple of years. Here is how I did it!

    I researched for about one year. Got all the criteria. Kept current with ANCC, TX BNE, and a bunch of other sources of information about the role, ect, via internet and calls. I was able to utilize the information about CNS to NP role and sort of reverse it all.

    First I became FNP at local university. Gained BNE approval with prescriptive authority. Then I did a Post-Master's in Psych Mental Health - only needed to take Individual, Family and Group therapy at that point. Currently, I am dually ANCC certified. In order to gain recognition in Texas was more difficult. The first step is to ensure that any program you enroll in is approved by the TX BNE, especially out of state programs. Your program must be approved by the Board, or you have to petition for a waiver. Which I had to do because Post Master's and Doctoral programs are NOT accredited by accrediting agency. But, any major university with a full Psych Mental Health NP and CNS program should have or has applied for LNL accreditation and will usually allow for a Post Master's.

    A dilemma in an NP or CNS program may be the lack of certified and recognized APN's in psychiatry in your area in order to obtain clinical time and supervision. The Psych Mental Health NP and/or CNS must obtain 100 hours of supervision, of which I believe 35% must be by a nurse certified in same role and specialty. This will prove to be a major step as I am the only PMHNP I know of near Corpus Christi, and I think there may only be one or two CNS's in this region. I know of only one CNS that is in private practice regionally. But, her role is different than mine. However, the supervision is directed at psychotherapy, perhaps I will be able to obtain her, or else I will have to look to another area for my 35 hours. The rest will be provided by the group I work with.

    Texas, in October, approved of the Adult Psych Mental Health NP. I took the Family PMHNP exam, so I will have to take yet another test. Once there are approximately 100 examinations completed, the TX BNE will look at the Family PHMNP exam for approval. I expect this to occur probably within a year as more nurses graduate from Family PMH NP programs. I suggest that you call the BNE before you take any exam to ensure the Board approves of the exam. I was told I can take any of the Psych CNS or Adult PMH NP exam and be recognized as NP, but to do this may result in non-recognition as NP by another state. I know this was an overkill almost, but at least I got it done.

    I wish you the best, and remember that dreams are only reality waiting to happen!!!!
  8. by   betts
  9. by   CraigB-RN
    ANy coimments on reimbursment as a Psyc NP? I'm in the decision stage of Clinical SW or the NP. Just want to have all my pro's and Cons in order.
  10. by   Kayekayrn38
    I have 2 nurse friends that are just about to graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg, MS) as Psych Nurse Practitioners (pending boards). They work at the same hospital as I do - MS State Hospital, Whitfield, MS. MS State Hospital is one of our state's largest mental institutions and is offerring a program for nurses to attain the NP license. This program is called the Educational Leave Program. I don't know all the particulars of the program, but it does give you money AND the promise of a well paying job after graduation. The hospital has given nurses a job to work while attaining their degree and allowed them the time off to attend classes. It also offers you to do your "clinicals" at the hospital as well. It is a relatively new program at the hospital, but seems to be a good one. My friends have NO complaints at all, and are looking forward to a whopper paycheck in a few months. As a matter of fact, I'm thinking of going that route myself. I love psychiatric nursing, especially working with schizophrenic patients, but the most challenging patients to work with are those with personality disorders (can be very draining at times). Anyway, good luck to you and hope I could be of some help................ take care..... Kaye RN
  11. by   morghan
    I haven't been in here for awhile... chiefly because I'm in school doing just what you are wanting to do... I am enrolled in the Psych/Mental Health Master's (CNS) at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas. It is a great program, and offers an excellent
    learning enviornment. Advanced practice specialization is the way to go to achieve the greatest autonomy in nursing today. In Kansas, ARNP's have prescriptive authority, and work from protocols. I highly recommend an advanced degree. Good Luck in your endeavors
  12. by   NurseAngie
    Originally posted by Kayekayrn38
    I have 2 nurse friends that are just about to graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg, MS) as Psych Nurse Practitioners (pending boards). They work at the same hospital as I do - MS State Hospital, Whitfield, MS. MS State Hospital is one of our state's largest mental institutions and is offerring a program for nurses to attain the NP license. This program is called the Educational Leave Program. I don't know all the particulars of the program, but it does give you money AND the promise of a well paying job after graduation. The hospital has given nurses a job to work while attaining their degree and allowed them the time off to attend classes. It also offers you to do your "clinicals" at the hospital as well. It is a relatively new program at the hospital, but seems to be a good one. My friends have NO complaints at all, and are looking forward to a whopper paycheck in a few months. As a matter of fact, I'm thinking of going that route myself. I love psychiatric nursing, especially working with schizophrenic patients, but the most challenging patients to work with are those with personality disorders (can be very draining at times). Anyway, good luck to you and hope I could be of some help................ take care..... Kaye RN

    I am also considering a career in Psych. Nursing. I found all the information on this thread very informative. Our Psych clinical rotation was held at Whitfield! I had the best time ever there (I thought I would not like it! ) I have wanted to work in Women's Health/OB ever since I decided to become a nurse ten years ago, but lately I have been taking a second look into other areas and Psych is very interesting. (I guess that is because I would love to know what makes people behave the way that they do.)

    I will definitely be spending a little more time on this board!

    ~Angie
  13. by   Psychonurse34
    I hear that the University of South Alabama in Birmingham offers the entire psych NP program online and you can do your clinicals locally with a qualified preceptor...the cost is about 200 bucks per semester hour and it totals 39 semester hours...I hope to get started on this next summer...good luck!!
  14. by   FutureRNMichael
    Psych NP programs out West here at Gonzaga U and OHSU in Oregon are both wonderful programs, I hear.

    I too have the same ideas of where I would like to work...Psych NP sounds to good to be true!!

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