This article contains information about mental health nurse practitioner degrees, and how to select a good one. We also offer useful information about good online mental health nurse practitioner degrees that you may want to consider.
What Is a Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Degree?
A mental health nurse practitioner (NP) degree is an advanced nursing practice degree. It is a specialized version of a Master of Science in Nursing degree, which is a requirement to become a nurse practitioner, one of the best paid advanced nursing practice professionals in the US.
A mental health NP degree provides you with the advanced individual, group and family counseling skills to assist clients to deal with many mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and much more. This advanced nursing practice degree will give you the skills to come up with a customized mental health nursing diagnosis for your patients, and then to devise a specialized plan of care and carry it out.
Mental health NPs today often provide primary care services to many types of mental health and psychiatric patients. This specialized MSN program gives them the skills to assess, diagnose and treat all types of patients in various populations.
All mental health NP programs will give you the general mental health treatment skills and knowledge to treat most types of patients. However, there are some mental health NP degrees that offer you the opportunity to subspecialize in certain illnesses and patient populations. You might, for example, focus your mental health practice on adolescent mental health, or mental health issues for elderly patients.
The majority of professionals who earn their Master of Science in Nursing already are practicing nurses and have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. However, there are some programs available where you can enter the MSN program from another field as long as you have a bachelor’s degree of some kind. This type of nursing program is typically referred to as ‘direct entry.’
These programs will have you earn your BSN and RN designation first, then you will proceed into your MSN mental health coursework. The primary advantage to a direct entry program for a non-nurse is that you can save at least two years by combining the two programs.
Why Earn a Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Degree?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that healthcare employment is going to soar by an impressive 19% by 2024. This is much faster than average when compared with other industries. In fact, healthcare occupations generally are going to add more jobs than any other professional industry in America. The total number of jobs added by 2024 will be at least 2.3 million.
Many of these new jobs are for nurse practitioners in many different specialties, including mental health. There is more demand for NPs because as our population is getting older, they are wanting to have more healthcare services to help them to enjoy their longer lifespans.
A generation ago, many people did not live past their 60s. Today, many Americans are living well into their 80s. The many advances in healthcare technology are allowing people to live longer and to have a higher quality of life.
The higher demand and level of technology is leading to growing healthcare costs. A very effective way to reduce healthcare costs is to have nurse practitioners provide many of the same medical services as physicians. Studies suggest that NPs often can provide the same level of care as doctors in many situations. Nurse practitioners charge considerably less than doctors, so this leads to lower healthcare costs with similar outcomes.
For all of these reasons, there is a huge and growing demand for nurse practitioners. BLS states that NP demand for all specialties will increase by 35% by 2024, which is much, much faster than average. Their data states that the total number of NP jobs added by 2024 will be 44,700.
Mental health nurse practitioners will be needed to provide mental health treatment for people who are aging and dealing with medical conditions and other problems of life.
When it comes to pay, nurse practitioners do very well, so this is another good reason to work in the field. The median salary for NPs as of May 2016 was $100,910. Some nurse practitioners are in such demand that they may work full time and also have a part time job on the weekends. For many NPs, you really can work about as much as you want.
Online Degree Options
If you already have your bachelor of science in nursing and have nursing work experience, a possible option for your MSN degree in mental health is the MSN in mental health nursing from the University of Southern Mississippi. This program is fully accredited by the CCNE, and it can be completed in some cases in only six semesters.
This mental health nurse practitioner program is focused on individual, group and family therapy, and will provide you with the scientific and research-based mental health nursing curriculum that you need to have a successful NP career.
All of the core courses in this program are designed to help the student to analyze and study the concerns and problems of advanced practice nursing from a scientific and theoretical point of view. Core classes can be completed part time before you are admitted into the mental health nursing part of the degree program.
The school also offers post master’s certification for MSN graduates who want to get additional education and certification in mental health nursing. A total of 48 credit hours are generally required to complete the program, but it can be as few as 34, depending upon transfer credits.
Your required courses include:
- Psychobiological Theories and Assessment in Advanced Psychiatric Nursing
- Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Diagnosis and Management with Individuals
- Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Practicum
- Diagnosis and Management Groups/Families
- Family Psychiatric Mental Health NP Practicum II
- Family Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Practicum III
- Advanced Pharmacotherapeutics
- Advanced Pathophysiology
- Advanced Health Assessment Advanced Practice Nurses
Your clinical work needs to be completed at a Mississippi facility that has been approved by your program advisor.
According to the university’s website, past graduates have landed these types of jobs:
- Primary care psychiatric mental health nurse
- Staff psychiatric mental health nurse
- Psychiatric mental health nurse care coordinator
- Psychiatric and behavioral nurse
- Behavioral health nurse
- Psychiatric registered nurse
We advise that if you are attending a mental health NP program that it should be properly accredited by a respected organization in nursing education. The accreditation that you should look for is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or CCNE.
A CCNE accreditation tells you and your potential employers that you have learned everything that you need to know to provide a high level of nursing care in the mental health field. Having CCNE accreditation is especially important for online degree programs; some employers still may wonder if the quality of the education you are receiving is the same as a regular, on campus program. The CCNE accreditation shows that it is.
The job outlook and salary for mental health nurse practitioners is outstanding for the next decade. Professionals who want to enjoy plenty of interesting work, good money, and helping other people will find earning a mental health NP degree very much a good investment.
- Healthcare Occupations. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm
- Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-5
- University of Southern Mississippi. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://online.usm.edu/graduate/psychiatric-mental-health-nurse-practitioner-ms/