Top Online Psychiatric-Mental Health NP Programs

Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) play an essential role in patient care in the United States. PMHNPs serve populations across the lifespan with their mental health needs, including patient education and disease prevention.

How does a psychiatric-mental health (PMH) nurse differ from a registered nurse (RN)? According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA), psychiatric-mental health nurses are RNs who have completed an advanced master’s (MSN) or doctoral degree (DNP) specializing in psychopharmacology and psychotherapy, earning them the title of APRN or advanced practice registered nurse. PMH-APRNs can provide mental health assessments and prescribe treatments. They can specialize in gerontology, substance abuse, or holistic, integrated nursing. 

PMH-APRNs are expected to be in high demand due to decreased social stigma around mental health, expanded healthcare access, and stressful world events. According to the American Psychological Association, mental health awareness has become more normalized in 2022, partly thanks to celebrities and influencers sharing their struggles on social media. 

In addition to increased awareness, the Minority Nurse lists the top four reasons for increased demand for psychiatric nurse practitioners: expanded access to care with the Affordable Care Act in 2010, PTSD treatment for veterans, caring for aging Baby Boomers, and forecasted demand for APRNs. A survey published by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) corroborates this, saying the top four diagnoses psychiatric mental health NPs treat are depression, anxiety, insomnia, and dementia. 

To top it off, The Mental Health Implications of COVID-19, published in the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (Aug. 2020), stated that 

“PMH nurses are strategically poised to lend emotional support to patients and colleagues while thinking more broadly about the changes occurring in service delivery.” 

Through all phases of assessment, diagnosis, and developing a care plan, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners consider their patients’ environmental, lifestyle, and developmental factors and the practitioner-patient and practitioner-family relationships.

Aspiring psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners may wish to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN), post-master’s certificate (PMC), or doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Over 95 percent of practicing nurse practitioners hold a graduate degree (AANP). For nearly a decade, nursing communities have called for DNP degrees to become the standard requirement for nurse practitioners; however, this is not the case as of 2022. 

As online nursing programs become more commonplace, there are many graduate programs for future PMHNPs to choose from. Programs are available in several states, and many allow students from other states throughout the nation to enroll. These online programs offer flexibility in learning with most coursework online, minimal campus visits, and practicums local to the student.

Online PMHNP Program Rankings

The online psychiatric-mental health NP programs listed here are ranked by a combination of cost, admissions flexibility, and program variety. This in-depth database comprises 928 online NP programs at the MSN, DNP, and post-master’s certificate levels, and represents what we believe to be a comprehensive list of online PMHNP programs entering the 2021-2022 school year. For our purposes, a program must require no more than nine campus visits in total to qualify for inclusion as an online program.

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Psychiatric Mental Health NP Career and Salary

According to the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Competencies from the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, PMHNPs must know how to:

  • Perform comprehensive physical and mental health assessments, psychiatric evaluations, and family assessments
  • Identify factors that affect mental health including trauma, environment, family, genetics, coping skills, culture, gender, socioeconomic status, spiritual beliefs, cognition, substance abuse, developmental stage, and others
  • Interpret diagnostic and lab tests
  • Diagnose psychiatric disorders FNP,PMHNP
  • Develop treatment plans and recommend therapeutic interventions
  • Prescribe psychotropic medications and other types of medications necessary for the improvement of their patients

The psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner field attracts about 4 percent of those studying to become nurse practitioners (American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), 2018). The median wage for nurse practitioners falls at $107,030 with a range from $80,670 to $182,750 for nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists (BLS, 2018).

The majority of PMHNPs work in psychiatric-mental health care facilities. Other prominent PMHNP work environments include hospitals, treatment facilities, private practice, and schools and educational facilities.

With an expected nurse practitioner job growth of 28 percent between 2018 and 2028, which is well above the national average growth rate of 5 percent, over 53,000 new jobs should open up for NPs (BLS, 2018).