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RN Mental Health Certification

Registered nurses looking to specialize in mental health care might consider earning a mental health certification. Find out about the certification options and the graduate education those usually entail!

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Overview of RN Mental Health Certifications

Registered nurses looking to expand their credentials within psychiatric healthcare may choose to do so by earning the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification (RN-BC). This is available to licensed RNs with at least two years of full-time experience, at least 2,000 hours of psychiatric-mental health clinical practice, and 30 hours of continuing education in the field; the certification requires passing the competency exam. Many RNs interested in certification fulfill the qualifications for advanced practice psychiatric nurse or nurse practitioner through graduate certificate or degree programs from regionally accredited colleges or universities. By the end of their coursework, nurses may be eligible to earn the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certification (PMHNP-BC) by passing the competency exam. Both certifications are offered by American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and must be renewed every five years.

Advanced Practice or Nurse Practitioner Program Admittance Requirements

Entering a nursing mental health graduate program requires a specific set of qualifications, with many programs being highly competitive in their admissions processes. Most program applicants are required to hold at least a bachelor's degree in nursing from a regionally accredited college or university and be an actively licensed registered nurse. Because psychiatric-mental health nurses are considered advanced practice registered nurses, and many also become nurse practitioners, it is necessary for them to pursue the appropriate education in order to operate effectively within their careers.

Common Advanced Nursing Course Descriptions

While there may be deviation across different universities offering coursework in graduate mental health programs, many common courses appear throughout the academic landscape. The following are some of the most commonly offered courses:

Clinical Psychopharmacology

These courses are designed to teach nurses the neuroscience behind prescribed medication for treating mental disorders. Candidates might learn key pharmacological principles, applying scientific data and clinical practices to their coursework. Through these classes, nurses could study how different behavioral types and biological makeups react to medications, and how they may benefit their future patients both for the short- and long-term.

Addiction/Substance Abuse & Mental Health

Courses in addiction and substance abuse as it relates to mental health can provide nurses with information they will need in order to identify signs of potential for substance use in their future patients. During their coursework, nurses might learn prevention and early intervention strategies best used to keep patients free from addiction and on the path to recovery. Classes typically cover genetics, principles of psychopharmacology, and clinical best practices for treating patients with substance abuse and addiction tendencies.

Clinical Psychiatric Differential Diagnostics and Adult Patients

An essential course for aspiring RN mental health certification graduates, this type of class can empower nurses with the appropriate interventions for adults who present with psychiatric disorders. Detailing differential diagnosis of and complex care for adults with these conditions, this course could explore real-world applications for future patients. This higher-level course is typically offered towards the end of a program, requiring students to have held an internship or clocked a certain number of practicum hours before entering the class.

Child/Adolescent Behavior & Mental Health Conditions

Courses in this area can help nurses look at child and adolescent development within the context of mental health. This study might help nurses identify behaviors that could be indicative of psychiatric conditions and inform them about normal behaviors that can be misconstrued as atypical in children and young adults. In addition, nurses could learn about the biological, environmental, psychological, and academic factors that contribute to the development of mental health conditions in children and adolescent patients.

Advanced Practice Nursing with Families & Groups

These sorts of courses can provide nurses with the knowledge and skills necessary for identifying barriers to mental health treatments for family members and marginalized groups. In addition, nurses could explore the varying definitions of family as it relates to different cultures and socioeconomic perspectives. This coursework might also prepare nurses for the interventions necessary for treating multiple patients within one family.

Available Careers for Nurses with Certifications

Typically, an RN with mental health certification advances and specializes in the field of psychiatric nursing. Currently, projected jobs for registered nurses in general are expected to increase by 12% between 2018 and 2028. On average, registered nurses earn $71,730 annually, according to the United State Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2018. While this is the traditional route most graduates take, there are many other career options available, including:

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