The careers as a mental health nurse practitioner are similar, but the work locations and health care organizations are very diverse. Here are four potential career opportunities for medical students who become mental health psychiatric nurse practitioners (MHPNPs).
Mental health psychiatric nurse practitioners are usually new graduates with only one to two years of work experience. They are generalists who perform post-admission medical and psychiatric assessments of new clients. Every week, they perform client consultations, oversee medication management and provide on-going client support and education. Mental health psychiatric nurse practitioners who work in family care units need to demonstrate a broad understanding of various theories of addiction and mental illnesses. They should be familiar with standard policies, practices and outcomes of recovery, treatment and relapse prevention. They also need to understand the diagnostic criterion for dual conditions and be able to provide continuing care for dually diagnosed patients.
There are many opportunities for mental health psychiatric nurse practitioners to work in local Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals. These nurse practitioners perform assessments and provide ongoing patient care for veterans, which include inpatient rehabilitation treatment and outpatient mental health clinical programs. These health care providers must have considerable knowledge and experience with military subculture, current veteran issues and VA processes and bureaucracy barriers. They need to be highly self-motivated to carry a heavy load of patients who may have severe behavioral problems. With each patient, they observe changing conditions, assist with medication management and utilize their therapeutic communication skills to help patients enter improvement programs.
Emergency Psychiatric Nurse
These mental health psychiatric nurse practitioners work in mental health emergency departments. Their work environment is sometimes very chaotic, stressful and unpredictable. They respond to psychiatric emergencies by determining risk and harm levels and initiating effective treatments. They perform intake evaluations with patients who may be highly upset and agitated. Because of this, this must have effective clinical interviewing and engagement skills that facilitate a positive therapeutic relationship. Based on their initial interview, they order relevant lab and diagnostic tests and interpret the subsequent results. They often prescribe psychotropic medications based on clinical facts and the universal Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
Adolescent Inpatient Services
There is a growing demand for mental health psychiatric nurse practitioners in adolescent inpatient and outpatient services. These mental health specialists work as part of multidisciplinary treatment teams that provide care for adolescents within medical units and emergency departments. They work closely with psychiatrist and health care providers to make effective clinical and treatment plans and decisions. They participate in daily inpatient psychiatric rounds and strive to form effective relationships with their patients. After the initial admission interview and physical exam, they manage their patient’s ongoing medical and psychiatric problems and work with families to provide stability and support. Job applicants should be prepared to show how their enthusiastic attitude and core competencies will enable them to successfully function in fast paced settings and manage a variety of challenging patients.
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All of these careers as a mental health nurse practitioner are open to med students who graduate from an accredited master’s program in nursing and obtain their state’s RN licensure. Almost all employers expect psychiatric nurse practitioners to obtain certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).