PMHNP (Psychiatric Nursing) DNP Programs

Feb 14, 2019

A Doctor of Nursing Practice program allows specialization in the area of psychiatric mental health, with preparation for licensure as a nurse practitioner in this area. Read on to learn more about program requirements, core courses, and admissions to DNP programs.

Nurses who wish to become clinical experts in caring for a mental health population may seek a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a focus in mental heath nursing. This practice-focused program of study can lead to certification as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). These professionals provide diagnosis and treatment of mental health concerns with a range of populations.

Doctor of Nursing Practice Program Requirements

The DNP can typically be completed in three to five years of study. The program can be completed online, on-ground, or in a hybrid environment, depending on the university. Depending on program requirements, some programs maintain flexibility for nurses to maintain outside employment, while others require full-time study. Typically, students will complete a range of coursework, a capstone project, and a psychiatric practicum.

Core Courses

Evidence-Based Practice

This course may help students develop skills in evaluating best practices in nursing to make decisions about how to care for patients. Students may come to understand the scientific merit and inquiry in a range of nursing literature. The systematic improvement of nursing practice, both in quality and safety, may be a result of this course.

Psychiatric Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents

This course offers an exploration of psychiatric illnesses that appear within the population of children and adolescents. Diagnosis, treatment, and management of these problems through a range of treatment modalities, including therapy and psychiatric medications, may be explored. Topics about prevention may be discussed as well.

Psychiatric Assessment and Treatment of Adults and Geriatrics

This course may consider the role of the psychiatric mental health nurse in treating adults and older adults. The diagnosis, treatment, and assessment process of common psychiatric illnesses may be considered. Family and community levels of mental health treatment may be examined.

Pharmacology and Medication Prescribing

This course covers the prescription of a range of medication across the lifespan. Topics may include pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and adverse interactions. Techniques to educate patients on medications may be reviewed as well.


PMHNPs may provide treatments including therapy to children and adults with mental illness over the course of their practice, and this course will prepare them with the skills they will need. Various modalities of therapy, including individual, family, and group may be covered. The major theories surrounding mental illness and therapeutic techniques could be reviewed. A clinical practicum may also be a course component.

Health Policy

Those with a DNP will be leaders in the health care industry, and this course may explore how to utilize these skills in terms of advocacy practice. The roles of players in making public policy, including the government, advocacy organizations, and individuals may be reviewed. Students may consider the regulations regarding the practice of DNPs within health delivery organizations.

Admission Requirements

Applicants to a DNP program must typically hold a current nursing license, and provide proof of certification. They should hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), though some schools may consider applicants with an Associate's degree in nursing with a non-nursing bachelor's degree. Those who hold a Master of Science in Nursing may be able to apply coursework towards the DNP. They should plan to submit a statement of goals, resume, recommendations, and transcripts. In addition, a writing sample or an interview may be required. Nurses with at least a year of professional practice may be preferred.

As mental health treatment needs continue to grow, PMHNPs trained at the doctoral level will be well-poised to offer leadership and treatment within this field. Earning the DNP can be a step towards this role.

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