I've been giving some serious thought of becoming PMHNP. Looking for some advice right now. I have only been a nurse for about a year and a half and I am now in my mid-forties. Instinctively I feel like this is an area of nursing that I am built for and feel that I have the drive for it. My issues at this time are the fact that I have student loan debt coming out of my ears from a business degree that I was unable to do anything with, my ADN, and my BSN. Honestly speaking, I want to do my masters, but I want to make it count because of my age and the amount of working years that I have left. I cannot afford to go to a big school to the tune of another 60k or more. I want to do it because I think that I would excel at it, but like any job or career, we want to maximize our potential too. My concerns revolve around whether or not the school matters where you get your education, are PMHNP's in demand, is it more beneficial to do FNP with a focus on MH or straight MHNP, salary expectations, and can I expect to retire at a reasonable age?

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We moved your thread to the Student NP forum. You can do a search here for these very topics. Scroll to the bottom of the forum page: Student Nurse Practitioner

Type in your key words and similar threads will appear:

Others will come along and assist you, too. Good luck with your plans.


396 Posts

Ahh welcome to riding the student wave. First off with just a year under your belt do yourself one favor take a masters level stats class which is required by most schools. Its a great way to figure if you can do the school at this point. Second if you decide to go in there are deferments for student loans. Third there are government programs that will pay off your student loans (simple google search). you think with one year your ready for the NP world?

Search some NP board questions. FNP vrs PMHNP...I am doing PMHNP because of one simple fact which is: handful dx handful of meds. I landed in psych after an old wound came back to haunt me and I couldn't rotate patients and kicked me out of the ICU. To me psych is easy, so I am going with the higher challenge.

Demand? FNP is easy to hire, yet little amount of people want to do psych. supply and demand chart inserted here.


159 Posts

Specializes in psychiatric nursing. Has 3 years experience.

I am just starting a PMHNP program in January. I have been working as RN in psych for 2 years now. I am also in my early 40's. Nursing is my second career.

There is no FNP program with a specialty in mental health. In fact, many state's BON have laws where the NP must be a PHHNP to work in mental health because the training you get in a FNP program is not in depth enough in the areas of mental illness and psychopharmacology. Furthermore, as a PMHNP you will get training in psychotherapy, so you can bill for therapy, whereas you do not get any of that training in a FNP program.

I too have massive student loans from my MSN generalist degree. I looked for a school affordable enough to pay for it out of pocket. I got accepted to the PMHNP DNP program at the University of South Alabama. It's one of the more affordable programs. I will be able to pay for it myself without more loans.

Regardless of where you end up working, if high loans are a problem, you want to check out the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (for Federal loans). Under this program, if you work in a non-profit or governmental agency (county, state, fed (like VA), after making minimal income based payments for 10 years, whatever the amount you have left will be forgiven tax free. You need to submit verification forms every year so the government can track your qualifying employment.

For the most part I don't think it matters what school you go to for future employment. Just make sure the school has a good record of people passing the certification exam.

The demand for PMHNPs depends on the area of the county. I'm in northern CA and the demand for them is good here, and the pay is higher than for a FNP.

I currently work as a psych RN for a non profit mental health provider, and they already offered me a job as a PMHNP when I get certified and director of nurses at this organization said she will be my preceptor for clinical hours.

So if you think you want to go the PMHNP route, it should try to get a job as a psych RN. You will get good experience and start learning the psychiatric medications, interventions etc that will be very helpful to know when you start your program. Plus you can start networking with other PMHNPs and psychiatrists so they will hopefully be your preceptor when it's time to begin clinical hours.


33 Posts

Hello! Thanks for a great topic.

1. It makes complete sense that a person should have psych RN experience while pursuing a PMHNP program, but does being a medsurg nurse ruin it for you? The only spot I can find is a medsurg nurse position, and I really consider myself lucky for having it waiting for me, until I pass my boards. I am currently a CNA.

2. To revive the OP's question does it matter where you went to school? Or as long as you are licensed, boom, you're good?

3. In terms of getting a precept, believe me I have no clue, and forgive the questions if it's stupid, remember I had clinical instructors appointed to us. How easy is it to find a preceptor, and do they sign up with your university or do you have to do all that leg work for them?