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Best Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs for 2020


Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you considering a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner? Perhaps you want to go to school but are unsure if you have the time to attend in-person classes. If this sounds like you, an online psychiatric nurse practitioner program may be the perfect option for you. In this article, we will discuss the 10 best Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs and provide you information about the cost and curriculum for the PMHNP programs and requirements for licensure and certification, to help you feel equipped to make the best decision for your career moving forward.


What Exactly is the Goal of a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program?


Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs are focused on giving registered nurses the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree with particular emphasis on psychiatric care. The goal is to prepare these nurses to identify mental health issues and to equip the nurse practitioner with the knowledge needed to effectively assess, diagnose, and treat clients with a psychiatric health condition.


How Many Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs are Currently Being Offered?


Currently, there are approximately one hundred fifty-two Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs. Thirty-eight programs offer students the opportunity to attend the program one hundred percent online. The other 114 offer fifty-one to ninety-nine percent of the course to be taken online.

Programs Offering 100% Online Education 38
Programs Offering 51% to 99% Online Education 114
Total 152
(Source: aanp.org)


6 Benefits of Pursuing an Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Online Program


If you are considering pursuing an online psychiatric nurse practitioner degree, you may be pleased to find that there are some great benefits to choosing this education pathway. Six of the most common benefits of pursuing a PMHNP degree through the online mode include the following.

1. More flexible schedules mean you may have more control over when and where you study or complete assignments. Some schools have open enrollment and offer students the opportunity to begin taking classes as soon as they are accepted into an online program.
2. You may be able to continue working your regular job and participate in online classes that fit well with your work schedule.
3. The old saying “Time is money” is no joke. When it comes to taking online classes, you can save time and money by reducing the amount of time you spend traveling to and from campus and the amount of money you spend commuting. Tuition costs for online nurse practitioner psychiatric programs are often less expensive than the programs you can take on-campus.
4. You can control your learning environment. One of the most significant advantages of enrolling in an online program is that you can work and study in an environment that is most comfortable for you.
5. You learn self-discipline. Successful completion of an online psychiatric NP program requires students to be disciplined. Unlike traditional on-campus classes, there will not be instructors standing in front of you every day to remind you when an assignment is due. Learning self-discipline is something that will help you later in your career as you begin to juggle and balance work and personal responsibilities
6. You can learn or strengthen your technical skills. The healthcare industry has almost entirely moved to computerized records and communication. By enrolling in an online program, you will learn to navigate through programs, interact with others online, and communicate using digital technology. These skills are fundamental in the fast-paced world of technology.


How Long are Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs?


Online psychiatric NP programs vary in the length of time it takes to complete, depending on the type of program you need. For example, if you are a registered nurse who holds a 4-year BSN, you may choose from a BSN to MSN program, which can take from fifteen to forty-eight months to complete. If you prefer to pursue a BSN to DNP degree, you may be required to attend school for anywhere between three and seven years. Registered nurses who have already achieved a master's degree in nursing but want to earn a terminal nursing degree may enroll in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)-PMHNP program. When entering online psychiatric DNP programs with an MSN degree, you can expect to spend between twelve and forty-eight months in school.

A few examples of program length include the following:

1. The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers a BSN to MSN program that can be completed in as little as two years.
2. The University of Pittsburgh offers an MSN to DNP program that many students complete in 24 to 30 months.

Pathway Length
BSN to MSN 15 to 48 Months
BSN to DNP 36 to 84 Months
MSN to DNP 12 to 48 Months


How Much Do Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs Cost?


If you are considering taking any Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs online, determining your financial obligation may be one of the most important things for you to figure. An online PMHNP program can cost anywhere from just under $18,000 to over $250,000. The type of program you enroll in impacts your cost most. However, if you must repeat a course, your expenses could be increased, as well. Generally, a BSN to MSN program costs from $18,810 to $185,280. BSN to DNP programs typically start around $26,000 but may end up costing over $254,000 by the time you complete the program. MSN to DNP programs, on the other hand, cost between $17,660 and $169,510.

Ohio State University offers a BSN to DNP program that requires students to complete 87 credit hours. The per-credit fee is $972.50, which means this program costs approximately $84,607.50.

Duke University School of Nursing’s MSN to DNP program costs an average of $13,400 per semester for part-time enrollment and $22,300 per semester for full-time enrollment in their online program.

Pathway Tuition Cost
BSN to MSN $18,810 - $185,280
BSN to DNP $26,490 - $254,260
MSN to DNP $17,660 - $169,510


Coursework


Becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner requires earning either an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) or DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) degree. As with other progressive degrees, the courses that you are required to take will depend upon your previous degree level and which program you are currently enrolled in. The MSN and DNP degree programs are structured to give nurses the most advanced training to provide excellent patient care.

BSN to MSN: BSN to MSN programs focus on more advanced nursing courses. Online psychiatric MSN-NP programs expound upon those advanced courses and have special emphasis on psychiatric-related content which prepares the nurse practitioner to provide psychiatric care based on solid knowledge. The following chart provides an example of courses that are included in psychiatric nurse practitioner programs.

Addictions and Contemporary Issues in Mental Health Principles of Health Promotion
Advanced Pathophysiology Principles of Independent Practice
Advanced Pharmacology Across the Lifespan Principles of Psychotherapy Across the Lifespan
Advanced Physical Assessment Psychiatric Mental Health Assessment Across the Lifespan
Clinical Skills for Psych-Mental Health Care Psych-Mental Health Clinical
Epidemiology and Biostatistics Psych-Mental Health Final Comprehensive Review
Evidence-Based Practice Psych-Mental Health Roles & Modalities of Care
Transition to Practice Psychopharmacologic/Neuroscience Foundations of Mental Health Care
(Source: Frontier Nursing University)

MSN to DNP: The DNP degree is considered a terminal nursing degree, which means it is the highest nursing degree one can earn. DNP curriculum builds upon the foundation of all other courses that nurses have completed up to the MSN degree. Students enrolled in a DNP program should expect to take the courses such as those listed in the chart below, as part of their required curriculum.

Applied Statistics for Evidence-Based Practice Introduction to Health Informatics
Data Analysis for DNP Projects Leadership Development
Database Management Manuscript Development
DNP NP Role Practicum Methodologies for DNP Projects
DNP Project Clinical Nursing Graduate Orientation Module
Ethics in Healthcare Organizational and Systems Management for Healthcare Leaders
Financial, Business, And Economics Drivers in Healthcare Management Public Policy in Health Care
Human Genetics and Clinical Applications The Science of Health Care Delivery
(Source: (University of Pittsburgh))


Clinical Training


The clinical component of any online PMHNP program is an essential part of learning that involves hands-on training. In clinical training, nursing students learn to master skills such as patient assessment and education that is a vital part of nursing care.

BSN to MSN: While each college or university sets its own clinical training guidelines, most PMHNP-MSN programs require clinical practicum experience ranging from 500 to over 1,000 hours of supervised patient care.

MSN to DNP: Students enrolled in a Post-Master's PMHNP-DNP program usually must complete 1,000 clinical practicum hours. Many schools allow students to apply up to 500 of their MSN clinical hours toward the DNP requirements. If you are considering enrolling in a DNP program, be sure to verify with your admissions counselor or advisor regarding the number of clinical hours that are required or transferrable.

(Typically, online PMHNP students are required to find clinical sites close to their geographical location. Students are often responsible for choosing a preceptor at clinical sites on their own, as well. Keep in mind, however, even if a school requires the student to choose a clinical site and preceptor, it is up to the school to approve them both. Therefore, it is important to begin considering possible facilities and preceptors and to seek school approval before it is time to attend clinicals.)


Admission Requirements


Online MSN and DNP programs for psychiatric nurse practitioners feature different admission requirements, as they are set by the college or university. However, although some admission requirements may differ, students can typically expect similarities regarding general admission expectations. Most colleges or universities require psychiatric nurse practitioner applicants to provide letters of recommendation, possess an active, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse, have a minimum one year of experience practicing as an RN, and provide transcripts from any post-secondary school they have attended. Although schools may have different requirements, most programs require that students have a 3.0 or higher cumulative GPA.

MSN: Applicants to MSN-PMHNP programs must hold either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Those entering an MSN program with an associate degree may be offered the option to participate in a bridge program or accelerated BSN program, after which the MSN coursework is introduced.

DNP: Admission to DNP-PMHNP programs typically requires applicants to possess a bachelor’s or a master's degree in nursing. Applicants should hold a degree from an accredited program and have at least one year of experience working as a registered nurse.


Following are the 10 Best Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs for 2020-2021


1. Rush University - Chicago, IL

Programs Offered: DNP

2. Duke University School of Nursing - Durham, NC

Programs Offered: MSN and BSN to DNP

3. Frontier Nursing University - Hyden, KY

Programs Offered: MSN

4. University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

5. The Ohio State University - Columbus, OH

Programs Offered: MSN and BSN to DNP

6. The University of Alabama at Birmingham - Birmingham, AL

Programs Offered: MSN and BSN to DNP

7. Stony Brook University - Stony Brook, NY

Programs Offered: MSN and DNP

8. Maryville University - St. Louis, MO

Programs Offered: MSN and BSN to DNP

9. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences - Little Rock, AR

Programs Offered: MSN and Post-BSN to DNP

10. University of South Carolina - Columbia, SC

Programs Offered: MSN and BSN to DNP

View Ranking Methodology


What Are the Do's and Do Not's of Getting Accepted Into any of the Top Online Psychiatric NP Programs?


If being accepted into a top online psychiatric nurse practitioner program is vital to you, paying attention to some "do's and do not's" may help you improve your chances of acceptance.

By implementing the following, you may make yourself seem like a more favorable candidate to the program staff who are reviewing applications.

1. Apply for positions within your current scope of practice in psychiatric or mental health facilities. By doing so, you are showing that you have a genuine desire to work in the field of psychiatry.
2. Apply to several programs. One of the benefits of choosing an online psychiatric NP program is that you are not as limited by geographical location when it comes to school choices. The more applications you have out there, the more chances you have of acceptance.
3. Make sure that your application has accurate, up-to-date information and that it is accurately completed. An application that is missing information or is not filled out correctly leads admissions counselors to believe that you may not put much effort into essential things.

Things to avoid when applying to get into one of the top Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Online Programs include the following.

1. Do not overlook the importance of using correct grammar and presentation. Whether you are writing your personal statement or having an in-person interview, professional communication is a very high priority for admissions advisors.
2. Do not try to "play down" your experiences. Although they are not required, you can use extracurricular activities to your advantage. If you were an active part of a club or sorority, you could highlight some of your roles. For instance, if you were a member of a social club that had several fundraisers, you could include that you lead the planning and budgeting needs of charity or social events.
3. Under no circumstances, should you ever say that you are applying to the psychiatric nurse practitioner program because you couldn't meet the qualifications to become a psychologist or psychiatrist. Admissions advisors want to know that you understand and respect the role of a psychiatric nurse practitioner. It's essential for them to believe that becoming a PMHNP is your main priority.


How to Become Certified as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?


The journey to becoming a certified psychiatric nurse practitioner can be challenging and exciting. It's important to understand the process of becoming certified and what fees and certification renewal requirements should be met.

What Certification Options are Available: The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certification. The examination provides assessment of the skills and entry-level knowledge of nurse practitioners.

The examination is taken via computer at authorized testing centers. It takes four hours to complete the certification exam. Although the test has 175 questions, scores are based on 150 questions. The other questions are considered pretest questions; however, they are distributed at random throughout the exam.

After completing eligibility requirements to take the exam and successfully passing it, nurses are given the credential Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PMHNP-BC).

Certifying Body Certification
American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certification (PMHNP-BC)

Eligibility Requirements: Eligibility requirements for taking the PMHNP-BC certification examination include the following.

• Possess a valid, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse
• Possess a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from an academic program that is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or from the CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education)
• Have a minimum 1000 clinical hours, 500 of which should be post

Fees: PMHNP-BC certification fees range from $220 to $400 for initial certification and from $250 to $375 every five years for renewal.

Renewal: After earning your certification as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, certification must be renewed every five years. Renewal through the credentialing board (ANCC) and the state where a PMHNP practices is required.


Scope of Practice for a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner in Your State


The American Nurses Association defines the Scope of Practice for psychiatric nurse practitioners. Each state has a Nurse Practice Act that determines the role of a PMHNP that is aligned with that state's legislation. States determine whether a PMHNP has full practice authority, reduced practice authority, or restricted practice authority.

Full practice authority allows PMHNPs to evaluate, diagnose, and treat clients as well as prescribe medications in correlation with the state board of nursing’s licensure authority. Reduced practice authority refers to limitations set on a PMHNP’s role. In these states, PMHNP’s are usually required to practice in collaboration with a physician. The amount of physician oversight that is required by a state determines reduced or restricted authority.

Full Practice States Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming
Reduced Practice States Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin
Restricted Practice States California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia
(Source: aanp.org)


Career Opportunities


Psychiatric nurse practitioners can find career opportunities in various settings and among specific or general populations. For example, psychiatric NPs may work in private practices or behavioral health units. Residential treatment centers and general physician’s offices are other settings where you may find employment.

A few examples of psychiatric nurse practitioner career opportunities include:

• Emergency psychiatric nurse practitioner: This position is often fast-paced and may be stressful. PNPs who provide emergency care are responsible for addressing patients in a psychiatric crisis by evaluating patient status and determining if they are a risk to themselves or others and implementing proper interventions.
• Family mental health nurse practitioner: May perform medical and psychiatric assessments of new clients, perform client consultations, and oversee medication management.
• Inpatient or outpatient mental health coordinator: In this position, you will coordinate mental health services for patients with psychiatric needs. An inpatient/outpatient mental health coordinator acts as a liaison between counselors, doctors, patients and support persons to make sure that a proper plan of care is implemented and followed by the whole care team.
• Veteran’s administration mental health consultant: Perform assessments and provide care for veterans in both inpatient rehab centers and outpatient mental health programs.
• Elementary or high school mental health provider: Identifies school-aged children for at-risk behaviors or other risk factors, work closely with school officials as well as centers for children and family, if outside resources are needed.


Earning Potential


As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, there is potential to earn a great income. In fact, according to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary of a psychiatric nurse practitioner in the United States is approximately $123,607. That is the equivalent to almost $60 per hour or over $10,000 monthly. As you earn more work experience, the chances of increased earning potential are higher.

Per Hour$59.43
Per Month$10,300
Per Year$123,607
(Source: ziprecruiter.com)


Top Paying States


Geographical location often has an impact on the salary any given profession can anticipate. Typically, areas that have higher costs of living or demand for a specific service offer higher wages. The state that pays the highest psychiatric NP salary is New York, with an average salary of almost $148,000. The following states are also ranked in the top ten psychiatric nurse practitioner salaries: Massachusetts, Washington, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Alaska, and Vermont.

Rank State Per Hour Per Year
1 New York $71.03 $147,750
2 Massachusetts $70.36 $146,353
3 Washington $69.87 $145,331
4 New Hampshire $68.48 $142,436
5 Hawaii $67.58 $140,561
6 Maryland $65.21 $135,634
7 Connecticut $65.19 $135,591
8 Rhode Island $64.66 $134,488
9 Alaska $64.57 $134,314
10 Vermont $64.31 $133,757
Source: ziprecruiter.com


Job Market for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners


Some sources report that as many as seventy percent of visits to primary care physicians are related to psychosocial issues. Because primary care providers do not specialize in diagnosing or managing mental health conditions, the need for psychiatric nurse practitioners is on the rise. Additionally, as there continues to be an ongoing shortage of primary care physicians and psychiatrists across the country, it is fair to assume that the job market for psychiatric nurse practitioners will grow.


Organizations & Associations for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners


Becoming part of an organization or association for psychiatric nurse practitioners is a great way to support and help advocate for yourself and others in this field. One of the biggest perks of joining an organization or association for psychiatric nurse practitioners is the opportunity to network with others in the profession. They are also an excellent source of experts who can mentor you as you cultivate your own practice.

American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA): The APNA is a professional organization with over 14,000 members. The association's focus is a faithful commitment to the practice of mental health/psychiatric nursing, the promotion of health and wellness by identifying mental health issues, the prevention of mental health issues, and the treatment of persons with psychiatric disorders.

Association of Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurses (AAPPN): The Association of Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurses serves the professional psychiatric community by advocating for mental health care, offering programs and resources to help psychiatric professionals enhance their practice, and offering continuing education programs designed for psychiatric nurse practitioners.


Bottomline


A career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner can be gratifying. If you are ready to start the journey to achieving this dream but don't feel like taking classes online is a good fit for you, don't worry! There are many Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs to choose from, like those mentioned in this article. There really is no limit to the things you can accomplish and the people you can care for with this rewarding career! Don’t wait... Start today!


Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Our Expert


What Does a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Do?


Psychiatric nurse practitioners perform many of the same responsibilities as a psychiatrist. For example, they assess, diagnose, and treat mental illness and disease. Their services typically cover a wide range of mental health promotion duties, including assessment, diagnosis of psychiatric conditions, medication management, and some counseling. Psychiatric NPs also collect patients' medical histories, conduct psychological and physical assessments, and create care plans related to psychiatric needs.

What Essential Skills are Required to Be a Successful Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?


While there are many skills such as proper assessment and medication management that can be learned in a psychiatric nurse practitioner program, other skills are essential to be effective in a psychiatric NP's role. For example, the ability to be sensitive to the feelings and emotions of others is very important. Also, having good communication skills and intuition are vital skills of any effective psychiatric nurse practitioner.

What is the Difference Between a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and a Psychiatrist?


Psychiatric nurse practitioners and psychiatrists are both a vital part of the mental health field. Their roles, responsibilities, and qualifications are very different. A psychiatric nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse who specializes in assessing and managing the mental well-being of their clients. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in providing mental health care.

Are there financial aid opportunities for people enrolled in an online psychiatric nurse practitioner program?


Although many psychiatric NP students choose to finance their education through different fellowships, there are opportunities for student loans and grants. If you think you will need financial assistance to complete any program, it is a good idea to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are two types of financial aid that are available to students in graduate programs: the Federal Stafford Loan and the Federal Grad PLUS loan.

How exactly do online classes work for psych NP students?


Colleges and universities use learning management systems to deliver online course content to students. This allows students to submit completed assignments through an online platform. Additionally, students can use this platform to communicate with instructors.

Is an online psychiatric nurse practitioner program easier than on-campus programs?


Whether an online psychiatric NP is easier than on-campus is dependent upon individual students. Online Psychiatric NP Programs require the same academic accomplishments as on-campus programs. However, because of the advantages related to online learning, such as less financial burden, more flexible schedules, and choosing a personal learning environment, many online students may feel more at ease than if they were attending classes on-campus.


Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years' experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels.