Reasons to Pursue a Career in Psychiatric Care

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Nursing is a rewarding and diverse field that allows you to help patients manage their health in a number of ways. With a variety of specialties to choose from, you may be considering what route to take with your BSN to DNP program. One option is to become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). In this role, you can help families, groups, and individuals with various mental issues, and help put them on the road to recovery.
Discussing mental health with a patient
Image via Flickr

Here’s a look at a few more reasons why becoming a psychiatric mental health care nurse practitioner can be a good choice for you:

Job Satisfaction

Psychiatric mental health care involves assessing, diagnosing, and treating individuals with psychiatric disorders. This also includes screening high-risk patients for the potential of psychiatric disorders in the future. As the American Psychiatric Nurses Association notes, an advanced practice psychiatric mental health nurse may prescribe medications and perform psychotherapy, contribute to policy development, and assist in healthcare reform. He or she may own a practice or work within communities, hospitals or corporations. Some psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners may function as consultants or liaisons to patients and families with complex issues and concerns.

There are a number of trends impacting the work of the PMHNP. For instance, the aging baby boomer generation is helping fuel the need for more mental health care workers, as many of these individuals begin to suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s as they age. Working with a care team, drafting a plan of care, implementing it, and developing follow-up meetings are all part of the psychiatric mental health care nurse’s role.

Problem-Solving and Investigation

Within the psychiatric mental health niche, nurses may choose to specialize even further. The following are some of the specialties listed by the American Psychiatric Nurses Association:

  • Child/adolescent mental health
  • Emergency nursing
  • Geropsych nursing
  • Military mental health

Though the day-to-day work of a psychiatric nurse practitioner can vary based on these specialties, all of these roles will likely involve some amount of problem-solving and investigation. Working in psychiatry requires an organized and detail-oriented approach to patient-care. You may find yourself focusing on piecing together a patient’s history and story as you learn why he or she has decided to seek your help.

Once you’ve met with a patient, the next step involves expert assessment and investigation. You might have to identify several different aspects of the patient’s behavior and his or her stressors, mood, coping methods, and level of self-awareness. Deciphering these isn’t always easy, and it requires you to rely heavily on your training and experience to find the best way to treat someone in need.

Improved Technology

Psychiatric medicine is always growing and advancing. This growth can be partly attributed to growing mental health awareness in the United States as well as access to new medicines, updated ways of treating mental illness, and advanced screening processes. However, mental health care still lags far behind other portions of the health care sector in terms of technology.

According to Forbes, the need to improve technology in the psychiatric mental health care field isn’t going unnoticed. Several technologies are emerging to help patients suffering from mental issues. Apps such as Pacifica, Pala-linq, and Spire are helping those suffering from depression, anxiety, or addiction back on the road to good mental health. These are not substitutes for the treatment from a nurse or doctor, but the advances are helping to raise awareness that mental health is a serious issue.

High Demand

In the health care industry, psychiatric specialties are in demand. The reason for this is not unique to the psychiatric arena, but plagues health care as a whole: there is a growing physician shortage. The result is an influx of patients that need services without a proper number of psychiatric-focused physicians to help them.

According to a report by the National Council for Behavioral Health, the shortage is a significant problem, but nurses are entering the field to help. The report notes that “there are currently 13,815 APRNs and by 2025 the number is projected to reach 17,900. Nurses can be especially valuable for patients with co-occurring medical conditions and can effectively liaise with primary care and specialty care providers around care coordination involving more complex medication interventions.”

Getting patients in the door for the coverage and treatment they need also remains a key issue. According to Mental Health America, 6 out of 10 adults with perceived mental issues receive no treatment, and 18.5 percent of adults surveyed say they have some sort of experience with mental illness. Depression has become one of the most undiagnosed mental health care problems in the country, and yet only 37 percent of sufferers have received any type of outpatient treatment.

With such high demand for service providers in this arena to care for existing patients and help new ones, the demand for more nurses to pursue this specialty will likely only grow.

Job Growth and Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for advanced nurses with a master’s degree or higher is projected to reach 31% through 2024, at a rate much faster than average. Those nurses working in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals hold about 16% of the positions in the nursing industry, and make an average of $69,460 on annual basis.

If you’re interested in a career as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, your online degree can help. Maryville University offers a number of different online degree programs for aspiring and experienced nurses, including the Master of Science in Nursing, the Post-Master’s NP Certificate, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice with Nurse Practitioner concentration.

Learn more about which option is the right fit for you.