About to have BS in Psyc -- want to become mental health nurse

Specialties Psychiatric


Hey, I posted this over in the intro part but I thought it was more appropriate to ask this question here.

I would appreciate any input (positive, negative, or otherwise) about my education goals.

So, I'm a psychology major and I will finish my BS in May 2005.

I recently have become aware of mental health nursing as an option for being a psychiatric provider.

Right now I'm trying to cram in 7 prereq classes I haven't already had (mostly hard sciences) to try to apply to a BSN program for Fall 2005 (or Spring 2006 if I need to spend the fall finishing my requirements).

If my end goal is to become a PPCNP(i think that's the acronym they used for psychiatric primary care nurse practicioner) should I focus on getting into the extremely competitive BSN programs here? Or should I become an RN (going to a community college) with the aim of later doing an RN to master's degree program?

Also, Is anyone here a mental health nurse practicioner? Why did you decide to go into the field? Did anyone else start out interested in counseling psychology and then go into mental health nursing?

I really think that being a mental health nurse would be a better fit for me than a Ph.D. program for clinical or counseling psychology, and the education takes much less time (7+ years for Ph.D program in psychology).

Thanks for your input.

Hi, I have a bachelors in psych and a masters degree in human relations ("professional psychology concentration"), both degrees from a major university, am a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) and have been since 1991. I minored in social work as an undergrad. I just graduated from nursing school (last Friday) and am getting ready to take my boards.

I've been researching this idea of psychiatric nursing with an eye to private practice, which sounds a lot like what you are considering.

If I had it to do over again, and if I were at the cusp of my first degree, as you are, and if I wanted to do what you describe, I would switch my major to social work and/or get an MSW. It's about the same amount of time as the RN would be, according to the plan you outlined (RN after you get your BS Psych).

The MSW program is not terribly challenging, I think your worst problem would be boredom. You will thrive in the counseling atmosphere, you will have a credential that opens a lot of doors, gets you reimbursement from everybody (this makes a lot of sense in private practice--glad to "talk" about it more if you are not familiar with it), and you don't have to do the prereq sciences, and risk not being accepted into crowded programs.

Don't get me wrong, I love nursing, and it's really where I belonged from the get go. But rather than get my master's even in psychology, I'd've gone the social work route.

The only thing you would not be able to do as an MSW that you could do as a psychiatric NP would be prescribe, and in some states you couldn't really do that.

Good question, hope this helps. Feel free to email me if you like.


66 Posts

For what it's worth, here's my view on the issue:

I have my Masters degree in Community/Agency Counseling. I am now beginning my first semester in a BSN program. While searching for a job, I found that counseling jobs are either (a) Hard to come by - if you are a "choosy" sort of person or (b) Do not have benefits that help you pay for supervision for your LPC (at least that's what it is in AL). The by and large of it all is the fact that the career just doesn't pay. I know we all love to help others, but at some point (unless you're independently wealthy), money is a factor. I felt at the usual standstill cycle of that you must have experience to get a job, but how can you get experience if no one will hire you to get any. Follow my trend?

So, I've decided on Nursing for the fact that I do love to help others...I love people in general and I love the medical field. I do feel like Nursing provides you with a way to do more "hands on" helping of people. In counseling, you are essentially helping to provide people with the tools to help themselves. Honestly, very few of your clients "get better". As a nurse, you are able to actually provide medications, back rubs, a smile, etc. to help people feel better. I know that not every patient will listen to orders to quit smoking or whatever...but I just feel like being in that capacity is a little more hands on helping.

All that to say that I think the Counseling route isn't the greatest. IMHO. Social work is a little different though...but you'll have to get that from someone else...I don't know much about it at all!!!

Hope I've offered some help!



46 Posts

I got a BA in Group Dynamics and got a job as a "psych tech" at a local hospital. I liked the work and began thinking about furthering my education/credentials. I considered MSW and MA programs, but some of the people who were working the same job as I was already had those degrees. The people who had more responsibility, more skills and more money were the RN's, so I got a 2 year RN degree and have worked nothing but psych since. Best move I ever made. I later got an MA in Counseling, which gave me a better understanding of what I was doing but didn't really help in the job market. I would never get a Master's degree in any area of nursing. But then, I never really wanted to do private practice or administration. If that's what you want then the BS to MSN route is probably the best bet. If you just want to be certain of getting a job as a mental health practitioner in any major metropolitan area you go to, get your nursing degree and then work out your own educational plan for your own benefit from there.

Oh, yeah... understand that it is possible to work as a 'Psychiatric Nurse" without ANY training or understanding beyond a single rotation in school.

Also consider this.... my MA and ANA psych certification have rarely been any advantage in getting a job and seldom gotten me any more money (sometimes the cert. will get you a buck an hour more)


47 Posts

Awesome I so happy you are interested in mental health nursing. Many people hate it, I'm not sure why cause to me it great and very necessary. Originally I wanted to be a psychologist, however I went the nursing route instead. I have a BSN in nursing and plan on pursing my master's for mental health nurse practitioner, after prompting from my significant other to follow my dreams not the money. However the idea of being a psychologist still interests me, so I plan on still getting that PhD someday. I have also come across others who were mental health nurse practitioners/psychologists. What a powerful and awesome combination to have. However I can understand you not wanting to be in school that long, I think I might be one of the few people that never get tired of school. Don't get me wrong school can be very annoying at times however, I figure following your dreams and whatever it takes to get there is much better than wishing you had done something different. (At least this is what gets me through school). I have other degrees as well, so this is coming from someone who has been in school for 7 years post highschool. Whatever you decide to do, I hope you are serious about the nursing part, cause we definitely need more people willing to get involved in mental health. So I welcome you and I know you will make a difference in nursing.


34 Posts

wouldn't want to offend anyone

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