Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are advanced healthcare practitioners with similar responsibilities, such as diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medications. However, their training and paths toward certification differ in significant ways. This blog post unpacks the key differences between NPs and PAs to help you determine which career path best aligns with your goals. What Is a Nurse Practitioner? A nurse practitioner (NP) is a licensed clinician who provides comprehensive healthcare to patients of all ages. An NP can work in virtually any healthcare setting, diagnosing patient conditions and prescribing medications. As of October 2022, nurse practitioners have full practice authority in 27 states, meaning that they can practice Read more
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner–Primary Care Role Specialty
In our Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner–Primary Care (PMHNP-PC) role specialty, you will learn to provide a full range of specialized services that together constitute mental health and psychiatric care and treatment. You’ll prepare to assess and diagnose patients, prescribe medications, and provide therapy interventions. You may also oversee case management, undertake policy development for programs, and engage in comprehensive advocacy education and research.
You will work with people who have psychiatric disorders, organic brain conditions, and substance abuse issues, managing the care of acute and chronic problems. PMHNPs work across a wide range of settings, including private practices, schools, public health facilities, outpatient clinics, and hospitals. In this capacity, you will also help meet society’s demand for more nurse practitioners. Employment of nurse practitioners is projected to grow a robust 45% during the current decade, 2020–2030.1
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) students at USAHS may pursue this role specialty.
Role Specialty At a Glance
- Online coursework + one required on-campus clinical intensive
- 55 credit hours + 630 practicum contact hours
- 9 trimesters (3 years), although acceleration options are available*
- Sept., Jan. & May start dates, plus midterm starts
*Time to completion may vary by student, depending on individual progress, credits transferred, and other factors.
This role specialty features one required clinical intensive, where you can fine-tune your advanced practice nursing skills in one of our state-of-the-art Centers for Innovative Clinical Practice. Guided by expert faculty, you will participate in simulated real-world clinical scenarios with your peers and receive personalized feedback and support. For example, you will practice counseling patients in role-plays with your classmates and learn to provide differential diagnoses.
This role specialty requires 600 clock hours of practica over three courses. You may complete your practica with a preceptor who is a nurse practitioner or other appropriate clinician and who meets accreditation and state licensure requirements. You’ll gain experiential learning about the role of a psychiatric mental health NP from a mentor who is working in this capacity. A dedicated advisor on our clinical education team will work with you to secure practica sites. (Students should plan on the need to travel and on some occasions, relocate for practica.)
Role Specialization Learning Outcomes
In addition to the program learning outcomes, graduates of the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner–Primary Care role specialty are expected to achieve the following learning outcomes:
- Perform comprehensive health assessments that incorporate diagnostic reasoning and the interpretation of diagnostic procedures.
- Engage patients and families in planning for health promotion, prevention of disease or disease progression, and symptom management.
- Apply critical thinking in the diagnosis and problem identification of complex issues related to clinical practice, individuals, populations, and systems of care.
- Provide ethical, patient-centered care based on best evidence, clinician expertise, patient preference, and circumstances.
- Evaluate outcomes of care using individual and aggregate data.
- Implement the role of a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner in a professional, respectful, and ethical manner.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners,” last modified Sept. 8, 2021: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm