Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook – (8 key Factors for the Strong Outlook)
Written By: Donna Reese MSN, RN, CSN
A psychiatric nurse practitioner, otherwise known as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), is an advanced practice nurse who is an integral part of the mental health care community. Even though this sub-specialty NP is a valuable team member, you may wonder what is the job outlook for a PMHNP? Psychiatric nurse practitioners have been in demand for years. However, with the decline of emotional well-being during the COVID crisis, there is an urgent need for mental health nurse practitioners in 2021. Read on to find out all 9 key factors behind the strong job outlook for psychiatric nurse practitioners and why now is a great time to be in the job market as a PMHNP. You should be able to have your pick of fascinating opportunities to work.
WHAT ARE THE FACTORS BEHIND THE STRONG JOB OUTLOOK FOR PSYCHIATRIC NURSE PRACTITIONERS?
(Following are the 9 key factors behind the strong job outlook for psychiatric nurse practitioners.)
1. COVID Crisis
The Psychiatric nurse practitioner job outlook is very positive for 2021 due to the mental and physical devastation resulting from the Covid crisis. Even before the current pandemic hit, HRSA predicted
that the estimated demand for behavioral health services, including psychiatric nurse practitioners, was expected to rise steadily between 2016 and 2030. According to Mayo Clinic, COVID-19 long-term effects
may lead to PTSD, depression, and anxiety for those having to deal with the aftermath of the disease. So, when COVID emerged, the demand for PMHMP’s grew even more significant.
The outcome of this crisis will last for years, and in many ways, it is still unknown who will be affected and how and what the response will be. Mental health professionals, including PMHNPs will be invaluable in assisting with dealing with the emotional damage related to the pandemic.
2. Substance Abuse
Substance abuse has been a grave problem in the US in the past few years. Unfortunately, opioid and stimulant
use is rising again with the COVID crisis.
Addiction and mental health issues many times go hand in hand. Therefore, a nurse practitioner with a background in psychiatry is a valuable professional to assist in treating substance abuse disorders. Mental health nurse practitioners are highly sought after in 2021 to work in treatment centers, detention centers, and hospitals where detoxification and addiction are prevalent.
3. Shortage of Psychiatrists
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the demand for psychiatric nurse practitioners is on the rise due to a shortage of psychiatrists, especially in specialty areas such as pediatrics and geriatrics. According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, there is a critical shortage
of all mental health professionals. The nursing and mental health field is currently advocating for nurses to become advanced practice nurses in the mental health field, such as psychiatric nurse practitioners, to help fill this need. A PMHNP is in high demand to close the gap where there is a shortage of psychiatrists.
4. Anxiety on the Rise/Mental Health Declining
As a society, we are getting more and more likely to turn inside ourselves for comfort instead of reaching out for help. This unhealthy trend may be due to easy access to online medical information and support. In addition, many people do not have community or organizational support for comfort and assistance. Instead, social media and technology become a companion. Unfortunately, withdrawing into ourselves tends to increase anxiety as we ruminate about a concern. Instead of getting out of the house, getting exercise and working, talking with a doctor or counselor, or even a neighbor, we bottle up our anxiety and problems and choose to stay at home.
Due to these factors, when a patient does seek mental health treatment, they are often in desperate shape. General practitioners or emergency department staff may prefer to refer the patient at this point for more specialized care. A psychiatric NP is an expert in mental health issues and will often be the treating professional for this type of referral.
5. Cheaper labor in Underserved Areas
One of the benefits of full practice authority
for nurse practitioners is that NP’s can now practice independently in underserved areas where physicians and psychiatrists are in short supply. Medically underserved areas include rural areas, inner-city, poverty and aging populations, and those with high infant mortality rates. Nurse practitioners have typically been used in the last few years to fill this gap.
In 2021, the gap is still wide open, with the need for nurse practitioners continuing to be high. A PMHNP is sought after in all medically underserved communities as these areas have been designated as areas of increased substance abuse and mental illness.
Listed as one of the 6 best NP career options for 2021
due to flexibility, PMHNP’s have the option to work from home in many capacities. Telemedicine is one area where the psychiatric nurse practitioner job outlook is very favorable for 2021 due to the increasing demand for this type of position due to the COVID crisis.
Patients who are experiencing mental distress may, among other things, have fears of driving and going to a medical facility. Teletherapy is fast becoming a preferred avenue for counseling for many patients. This private encounter takes away the stigma of visiting a mental health professional and provides ease of access for the anxious patient. Not surprising, this avenue for therapy may replace previous in-person visits in the future. Psychiatric nurse practitioners are used primarily in this role to monitor medications, provide follow-up and funnel referrals to the psychiatrist as needed.
7. Suicide on the Rise Among Young Adults and TeensSocial Media may be to blame
for the rise in depression and suicide in teens and young adults, according to the Mayo Clinic. Teens and young adults may replace live social interactions with communication from online “friends” and gaming. This switch tends to put them at unease in real social situations where they do not have the skills to engage with others and enjoy socialization adequately.
Teens and young adults also tend to have disrupted sleep due to gaming and technology keeping them up at night. Lack of sleep can lead to anxiety and depression, making this population more vulnerable to suicide. A psychiatric nurse practitioner can be a valuable resource for teens and young adults to help ease depression, leading to suicide.
8. Stigma on Mental Health Issues Lessening
Although stigma still exists towards mental illness, the US is making progress in overcoming this issue. In 2021, it is more acceptable to talk about emotions, mental illness, treatment, and struggles with addiction. With 1 in 5 adults battling mental illness
, it is a relief to know that they are not alone due in part to the freedom of expression about mental illness.
With less stigma regarding mental illness comes increased acceptance of treatment, making the psychiatric nurse practitioner job outlook a positive one.
9. Increasing Medical Coverage for Mental Health Treatment
The American Psychological Association indicates that under the Parity Law
, coverage for mental health treatment is to be equal to that of health coverage. This law has been in effect since 2008, yet up to 90% of Americans are not familiar with it. People are catching on to this benefit slowly and are beginning to utilize it more and more to receive the mental health and addiction treatment that is a part of this benefit. As more and more mental health treatment is funded, the PMHNP job outlook increases with the demand for services needed.
I expect that this article answers the question of what is the job outlook for a PMHNP? It is undoubtedly clear that the 9 key factors behind the strong outlook for psychiatric nurse practitioners illustrate an overabundance of need for psychiatric nurse practitioners. If you enjoy supporting people with psychiatric or substance disorders, would like a job with flexibility, a healthy salary, and a wide choice of jobs to pick from, you may want to consider a career as a PMHNP. Your new mental health career and clients are waiting for you!
Donna Reese MSN, RN, CSN
Donna Reese is a freelance nurse health content writer with 37 years nursing experience. She has worked as a Family Nurse Practitioner in her local community clinic and as an RN in home health, rehabilitation, hospital, and school nursing.