PMHNP- advice needed!

Students NP Students


Hi allnurses community,

I am extremely interested in becoming a PMHNP in the future. I am graduating this May with a BSN. I am wondering if I should apply soon after I graduate for a MSN program or should I get some experience first. What do you guys think? If I need experience first (preferably as a psych nurse), how many years? What other things can I do to booster my application?

Thanks all!


695 Posts

It's up to you. If you know PMHNP is your absolute goal, then I see no reason to put your life on hold. Plus getting school out of the way sooner, rather than later, is always a good idea (you never know what could come up that could prevent you from going back). However, if you really like the idea of getting some RN experience and/or feel uncertain if PMHNP is right for you, then there's nothing wrong with taking time off and working. Plus getting RN experience will probably be helpful in your PMHNP studies. Is it absolutely necessary? Probably not. Working as an RN could help you bring in some money before returning to grad school, which is always helpful. There's no one rule, it really depends. I will stress that if you are certain you want to become a PMHNP it's best to do it sooner rather than later, as you really never know what could happen that could cause you to put it off, and then keep putting it off... Also, you might want to snatch up that MSN degree before all the MSN programs turn into DNP programs!


1,635 Posts

Specializes in Correctional Nursing; MSN student.

Some schools require RN experience, but not all. Look into them and go for it! I am 53 and just applying. What the heck, there's a dire need and I'm not letting my age slow me down. If you're passionate about psych go for it! :yes:

Which programs are you looking at or have applied to? I might wait a year or two before I apply because of my little experience. I am on a psych/mental health facility right now for my senior placement and I am honors student… That's pretty much it! Ha so better that I get some experience and not waste time applying right away. Can I ask what your backgrounds are? Like how long have you guys been a nurse and which units have you worked on?


1,413 Posts

Specializes in Outpatient Psychiatry.

I had received an offer of conditional admission before I finished my BSN program. I was adamant about becoming a PMHNP and remained in nursing school after realizing that's what I wanted to do. (I started to quit during the first semester because I had a different idea of what nursing actually is) Anyway, I graduated, got licensed, and received unconditional admission. I then took the first job that was offered to me, and I worked full-time as a RN and was in school full-time as well. Waiting would have been foolish for me. I learned and made straight A's as well. I'm finishing up my second year of the program now, but unfortunately it's a three year program so I still have a year to go. Lacking more nursing experience has not been an impediment at all for me, and no one has rebuked my career plans at all much less due to my lacking of any significant nursing experience.

By the way, congratulations on your upcoming graduation. It's truly a milestone, and you should be proud of your accomplishments.

Wow that is so great! Can I ask you which program?! It would be a dream to start right way!


244 Posts

I started right away too. ASN 2009 bachelors 2010 will have MSN 2014. I was that person the first day of nursing school who knew what they were going to do and got the snarky comments when I said I was going to be a PMHNP. I worked in a psych hospital while in school for the most part until clinicals became too many hours to work too. I say if you know what you want to do finish your education as soon as possible. I listened to a speaker at research day Friday who even encouraged everyone if you think you want a higher degree the sooner the better because life happens and has a way of keeping people from reaching their goals. This honestly isn't the philosophy you get from most nurses. Most will tell you to work for a few years and then do it. This idea may work for some but I think the roles of RN and aprn are different enough that it doesn't matter as much as people think.

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

97 Articles; 21,242 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

Moved to pre NP forum for more answers. Good luck.

I'm in the same boat as you - but I'm an older student. My take is to try to keep going. Life has a habit of getting in the way and delaying your plans. While it would be ideal to take off a year and work, it's hard to go back to school. Use the power of momentum to keep it going.

My plan is to look into the possibility of working part-time while pursuing my PMHNP masters. There are also some programs that are designed for working nurses. So that may be an option as well.

I started a similar question thread here... and got some great answers:

Good Luck.


1 Post

I graduated in December from a PMHNP program. I wish I had worked in mental health for a least a year, EVERYONE in my class had experience. A lot of basic psych information was not explained. I think the program was harder for me.

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