Mental health nurse practitioners assess and treat patients with mental illnesses and psychiatric disorders. Online master's degree programs in nursing are common, and online mental health nurse practitioner master's degree programs are designed to accommodate working nurses' schedules. Students enrolling in these programs need to be licensed RNs and may be required to have BSN degrees.
Online courses include health assessment, pharmacology and diagnosis. The clinical practice portion of the program calls for training in psychological diseases and treatments. Prior to graduation, students must complete an in-person clinical practicum, which can be completed at an approved healthcare facility near the student's home
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Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Master's Degree
Students of mental health nurse practitioner master's programs develop health care practice, decision-making, research, treatment and management skills related to mental illnesses. All programs require clinical practicum hours. Typical prerequisites include a bachelor's degree in nursing with a minimum grade point average, proof of licensure as a registered nurse (RN), a resume, letters of recommendation and a personal statement of purpose. Experience in the field is also recommended.
Information and Requirements
Full-time programs take approximately 2-3 years to complete, while part-time students typically complete the program in 3-5 years.
Programs include online coursework and clinical practicum credit hour requirements. Some schools require on-campus residency, while others allow students to complete practical education at an approved location near their residence.
Courses delivered online require access to a personal computer and Internet connection, preferably high speed. The computer needs to be equipped with an office suite, browser and virus protection. Students will need an e-mail address and possibly specific programs or plug-ins. An institution may supply needed software for free while the student is enrolled in the program.
Core master's degree-level courses in mental health practitioner studies concentrate on health care theory, practice, policy, research, financing, ethics and cultural issues. Classes in assessment, physiology, pharmacology, psychotherapy and mental health interventions are commonly required courses.
Pharmacology and Psychopharmacology
Students participate in assessing and managing medication needs in patients. Pharmacologic age and physiologic considerations, effects on human systems, categories, doses, indications, administration procedures, therapeutic uses, reactions, interactions, contraindications and pharmacokinetics are also studied. This class may have an in-person clinical requirement.
This course builds advanced knowledge in disease pathophysiology effects on humans throughout life. Common human pathophysiological conditions and syndromes, disturbances of major functions, disease mechanisms, genetics, biochemical processes and cellular dysfunctions are emphasized.
Health Care Policy, Promotion, Assessment and Issues
Students focus on analysis of health policies, patterns of influence and clinical needs in this class. Political, social, cultural, economic, ethical and legal issues related to health care policy changes, decisions and development are also explored.
Career Information for Graduates
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that nurse practitioners will be in high demand in the 2014-2024 decade, especially in inner cities and rural areas. In these areas, they can serve as the primary caregiver at a lower cost. The BLS reported that nurse practitioners made a median annual salary of $98,190 as of May 2015.
For those wishing to pursue further education, many schools offer Ph.D. in nursing programs, and some are available online. A doctoral degree prepares nurses for leadership, academic and research-related positions in the field.
Licensed RNs who aspire to be mental health nurse practitioners must complete a master's degree program. Nurse practitioner programs focusing on mental health offer online coursework - focusing on topics such as pharmacology, psychopharmacology, pathophysiology, health care policy and current nursing issues - and typically require in-person clinical training.