What Are the Responsibilities of a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

Psychiatric nurse practitioners care and advocate for people who need psychiatric treatment along with medical care. Read on to discover some of the responsibilities of a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

As a psychiatric nurse practitioner - commonly known as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) - your primary responsibilities will center on improving your patients' mental health. However, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) reports that you'll officially and unofficially take on many roles as a PMHNP, including health care provider, consultant, educator, advocate, and researcher. Not only will you be responsible for managing your patients' treatments, you'll also need to develop relationships with them so that you can properly advocate for their needs.

Important Facts About Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

Median Salary (2014) $95,350 (for nurse practitioners)
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 31% (for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners)
Work Environment Nights, weekends and holidays; on-call
Similar Occupations Physical therapists, occupational therapists, physician assistants, registered nurses

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Manage Patients' Treatments

Your main concern as a PMHNP is to create and follow a treatment plan for your patients. You'll work with your patients and their families to decide the best course of action. Your duties may include:

  • Differentiating between normal and abnormal behavior
  • Analyzing patients' records to arrive at a diagnosis
  • Creating and tailoring a treatment plan that meets your patients' individual needs
  • Treating patients using both therapeutic and medical techniques
  • Reporting your patients' progress to the patients, their families, and other facility staff

Since you'll have completed a graduate degree program, you'll be able to provide patients with clinical diagnoses and medical treatments, like a physician. However, if you discover that a patient's mental illness is beyond the scope of your abilities, you're obligated to refer that patient to a specialist who can give that patient the necessary treatment.

Provide Emotional Support

In addition to treating patients' mental needs, you'll also be responsible for overseeing their emotional needs, both while they're under your supervision and after they've left your care. You'll teach patients how to take care of themselves after their time with you and meet with patients' families to ensure that other support systems are in place beyond their treatment with you.

Once patients have left the treatment center, you'll follow up with them at regular intervals to make sure that they're maintaining themselves. If necessary, you'll also intervene in any emergency situations that may arise.

Advocate for Patients

Because you'll potentially have more contact with patients than their physicians or specialists, you'll have to advocate for their well-being. You may need to meet with your patients' other health care providers to make sure their health needs are being met. You'll also evaluate current health care policies' impact on your patients and research new mental health care practices to improve your patients' quality of care.

At its most basic, advocating for your patients' means that you'll need to respect their dignity as human beings, regardless of their race, socioeconomic class, religion, age, or sexual orientation. When working with your patients to establish their treatment plans, you'll take their cultural and religious beliefs into account. Additionally, the AACN lists advocacy as one of its core critical care nurse competencies, so you may find yourself using your position as a PMHNP to advocate for culturally sensitive, environmentally-sound health care access for all patients.

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