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A psychiatric nurse practitioner assists physicians with the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients. In many states, nurse practitioners may also treat patients independently of a physician's supervision.
Online master's degree programs for psychiatric nurse practitioners prepare students for national certification, state licensure and practice in the field. Most courses are offered online, and the required clinical practice can be completed at an approved healthcare facility near the nurse's home. These programs are designed for working nurses, who are already licensed as RNs or BSNs and in most cases the nurse can complete the clinical training at the facility where he or she works.
A psychiatric nurse practitioner must hold the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner credential from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. This requires completing a master's, post-graduate or doctoral degree program in psychiatric nursing, including at least 500 supervised clinical practice hours. Passing a competency examination is also a requirement.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Master's Degree
Students in an online psychiatric nurse practitioner master's degree program study the applications, theories and practices used to diagnose and treat mental health patients. A bachelor's degree in nursing is required for enrollment. Almost all programs require that students have a current registered nursing license. Previous experience as a registered nurse in a psychiatric or mental health setting is encouraged.
Some programs require an on-campus orientation session. In addition, as many as 500 clinical, practicum and residency hours are required. This requirement is normally scheduled towards the end of the program. Full-time programs can be completed in as little as 1-2 years, while part-time programs may require an additional semester or two of study.
Some schools use an educational delivery system like Blackboard, while others have their own online learning software. These tools are home to all course materials, libraries, discussion forums, exams and other resources. Students need a high-speed Internet connection to view streaming videos and to take advantage of other online resources.
Master's degree programs for nurse practitioners include courses in pharmacology, pathophysiology and health assessment. Students must complete instruction in health assessment, diagnosis and treatment. The clinical training required for certification must cover at least two psychotherapeutic treatment modalities.
Health Research, Promotion and Assessment
In this class, students learn to identify, treat and implement strategies used to prevent disease and promote health. The course also examines research methods, data collection techniques, and data analysis and interpretation.
Advanced Nursing Practice Pharmacology
Students in this class study the drugs commonly used in psychiatric nursing. Students learn the therapeutic uses of a variety of medications, as well as contraindications, appropriate dosages, potential side effects and other factors to consider when prescribing and administering medications.
Advanced Nursing Pathophysiology
In this course, students study the changes that cells undergo throughout a person's life, as well as the health patterns, conditions and syndromes associated with these changes. The class focuses on studies of genetics, cellular dysfunction and biochemical processes.
A psychiatric nurse practitioner, also known as a psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), can work for a hospital, private clinic or other mental healthcare provider. The Bureau of Labor statistics reported that as of May 2015, the median salary of a nurse practitioner in the United States was $98,190 a year (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Training and Education Information
Students interested in continuing their education can pursue a Ph.D. in Nursing, which may be offered online. In addition, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) offers a variety of continuing education courses. These courses are also approved for the continuing education credits needed to maintain national certification.
Online psychiatric nurse practitioner degree programs are available at the master's level and are open to registered nurse practitioners. Coursework is available fully online; however, clinical hours are likely to be required and can be completed at an approved institution close to the student's home.