◊ Nurse Practitioner
◊ Clinical Nurse Specialist (individualized program)
Beth Phoenix, RN, PhD
The Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurse.
Advanced practice psychiatric nurses provide primary mental health care to patients seeking mental health services in a wide range of settings. This includes the assessment, diagnosis, and management of mental health problems and psychiatric disorders. The program allows for a primary focus on either children or adults.
Advanced practice psychiatric nurses work in a variety of settings, including inpatient, emergency and community-based mental health services. They also provide services in settings such as primary care clinics, forensic settings, schools, substance abuse centers and recovery programs.
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP) provide a full range of primary mental health care services including biopsychosocial assessment and diagnosis of patients with mental illness. Treatment modalities include both medication and psychotherapeutic management.
The Psychiatric Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist (PMHCNS) role emphasizes research, clinical leadership, education, consultation and expert clinical practice, focusing primarily on system-level interventions.
The advanced practice psychiatric nursing program prepares students to respond to the mental health needs of persons across the lifespan. Students may select to complete their clinical residency with a specific age group, such as children and youth, or clinical population.
Coursework includes foundational coursework for all advanced practice roles, including comprehensive health assessment, pathophysiology, pharmacology and health promotion. Psychiatric nursing coursework includes psychiatric assessment and symptom management; psychopharmacology; individual, group and family therapy; and human development.
There are also opportunities for post-master's study leading to Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner certification for those who are already graduate-prepared nurses. Preparing for certification will generally require four to six quarters of study depending on the applicant's background.
Credentialing and Licensure
Graduates may apply for American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) national certification as a Family (i.e., lifespan) Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, which will be the sole option for national certification in advanced practice psychiatric nursing as of 2014. Information about ANCC PMHNP certification can be found at www.nursecredentialing.org/Certification/NurseSpecialties/FamilyPsychMentalHealthNP.aspx (website).
Applicants may request an individualized Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist program, but no national PMHCNS certification will be available.
Licensure in the State of California as a Nurse Practitioner or Clinical Nurse Specialist depends on the chosen role preparation. More details are available online from the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) at http://www.rn.ca.gov/applicants/ad-pract.shtml (website).
Frequently Asked Questions
Each applicant is reviewed as a whole.
Goal statement, letters of reference, extracurricular activities, language skills, activities on-the-job, research activities, work experience, professional organization activities, and Grade Point Average (GPA) are ALL considered when the application is reviewed.
List all of these aspects.
Be sure to ask colleagues to review your goal statement. Include examples of on-the job activities. Describe any volunteer and professional activities. Make sure to ask your colleagues for "excellent" references and have them give specific reasons why they believe in your success.
Many of our students find that sharing housing is a good approach to solving both the availability and cost issues. Housing in the San Francisco Bay Area may be expensive, but help can be found with the campus Housing Office, the Student Affairs Office, and previous graduates can often give advice.