The High Importance and Demand of Psychiatric Nurses

Articles | Master of Science in Nursing |

Today, there is a sharp increase in the demand for nursing practitioners who specialize in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing (PMHN). This reflects an increased importance placed on the profession within the US health care system. Students who are interested in nursing are therefore advised to consider becoming Psychiatric Mental Health Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (PMH-APRNs) or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNPs).

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Who are Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners?

In a nutshell, psychiatric nurses assess and look after the mental health needs of individuals, families, groups, or communities. They diagnose and treat mental illnesses with a broad range of solutions including psychotherapy and prescription medication. The positions available to psychiatric nurses are varied, from consulting with corporations to private practice.

All psychiatric nurses must be Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) and hold a degree in psychiatric mental health. To practice in the US, professionals must also be certified as Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNPs) by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

The Number of Employed Practitioners in the US

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANPs), there are over 222,000 licensed nurse practitioners in the US as of 2016. Out of this figure, only 2.4 percent have specialized in psychiatric or mental health practice for adults, while three percent handle family-related cases. In total, about 11,988 nurse practitioners currently focus on psychiatric and mental health cases.

With the increasing demand for these professionals across the country, this field has much potential for growth and has already started to experience an exponential increase in demand.

Increased Demand for Psychiatric Nurses

The growing demand for psychiatric nurses and services can be somewhat attributed to the mainstream media that has ‘normalized’ mental health conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. Moreover, the government’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) has raised awareness of mental health and increased resources for treating these cases. Despite this positive trend, data shows that there is a dwindling number of psychiatrists in the country. As a result, more psychiatric nurses are required to help treat and care for patients.

Factors That Have Led to an Increase in the Demand for Psychiatric Nurses

One in every five Americans has suffered or will suffer from mental illness, yet many people do not have access to quality health care. As a result, the Affordable Care Act has provisions (such as mandatory funding), which are dedicated to offering quality care.

Another factor in the growing demand for psychiatric nurses is the increased visibility and awareness of mental health issues caused by the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Many soldiers succumb to PTSD when they return home. Much care and support is needed and has been offered to aid their recovery.

The mainstream media has also increased its coverage of depression and mental health conditions around the country, which has contributed to the de-stigmatization of mental illness. Additionally, increased research into mental health has shown that it is widespread in the US. As a result, more and more people need, and are demanding, quality mental health care.

Psychiatric Nursing Careers

Data on the projected rise of health care jobs has shown that the demand for nurses presently outweighs the average rate of job creation in other industries. The employment growth for nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists is projected to rise 31 percent between 2014 and 2024.

Industries with the Highest Employment Rate of Nurse Practitioners

The offices of practicing physicians employ 65,550 nursing professionals, which makes up 2.49 percent of total nurse employment. Other industries that employ a large number of nurses are outpatient care centers at 11, 610 or 1.57 percent, general hospitals at 35,220 or 0.67 percent, and learning institutions at 3,970 or 0.13 percent.

Degree and Experience Requirements by the Professions

Nurse practitioners must complete a bachelor’s degree, which takes about four years. Graduates must first register as nurses before pursuing advanced practice degrees. Also, they need one year of nursing experience before pursuing further education. Afterward, they will require either a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree or a Master of Science degree, which takes two years each to complete.

What differentiates APRN MSNs from the non-advanced MSNs is an Advanced Practice NP MS (Nursing Degree), a clinical component, national certification, and periodic peer reviews. Registered nurses with a non-NP MSN are still eligible to pursue the certificate program, provided they achieve the schooling required to qualify, which takes at least seven years.

Average Salaries of Nurse Practitioners

Psychiatric nurse practitioners are the second highest paid nurse professionals in the US. Their annual salary ranges between $71,485 and $129,837, while the median salary is $91,298. In 2015, the average annual wage of a nurse practitioner was $101,260.

Top Five Highest Paying States

Compensation varies according to state as well as specific areas between states. The top five highest paying states for psychiatric nurse practitioners are California, Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Oregon—in that order. California leads with an annual mean wage of $120,930, a mean hourly wage rate of $58.14, and employment of 10,701 psychiatric nurse practitioners. Alaska follows with an annual mean wage of $117,080, an hourly mean wage of $56.29, and employment of 390 practitioners.

Hawaii has an annual mean wage of $114,220, an hourly mean wage of $54.26, and employs 330 practitioners. Massachusetts employs 5,690 practitioners and pays them an hourly and annual mean wage of $54.26 and $112,860 respectively. Oregon’s annual mean wage is $111,210, it employs 1,500 practitioners, and pays them a mean hourly wage of $53.47.

Careers Available for Psychiatric Nurses

Psychiatric nurse practitioners work in psychiatric hospitals, mental health clinics, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), social service agencies, and global health organizations. They are also employed by learning institutions such as universities, colleges, and professional schools. What’s more, psychiatric nurse practitioners consult with communities, corporations and legislators to evaluate, advise, and implement accessible and efficient mental health care.