America’s mental health crisis is well-documented; millions remain untreated. Ramifications of untreated mental illness include elevated rates of cardiovascular diseases (and other physical issues), increased substance abuse, and nearly $200 billion in lost wages annually. It’s a situation poised to get worse: the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports that the shortage of psychiatrists could surpass 30,000 within the next few years, placing further strain on other behavioral health professionals.
Bolstering telehealth infrastructure is one way to help the strained healthcare system. Properly implemented telemedicine improves access to care (especially for patients in isolated rural areas), cuts costs, and increases the number of patient visits. It can also ease staffing burdens and reduce burnout rates.
For one isolated North Carolina community, telehealth came in the form of a mobile clinic; a registered nurse (RN) helped people on site and facilitated telehealth visits with psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNP). The approach saves resources while ensuring people receive the treatment they need. It’s just one example of how telehealth can increase and improve healthcare service.
This article on telehealth jobs for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNP) explains how PMHNPs can work to improve mental health outcomes from a distance. It covers:
The 2022 American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) workforce survey notes a jump in the number of psychiatric advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), including PMHNPs, who offer telepsych services. According to the study, 86 percent of over 4,000 respondents conducted visits at a distance. On average, these professionals offered mental health care to 25 patients each week across two states. The APNA reports that it gathered these data at the beginning of the pandemic and that numbers may well have increased since.
Telehealth is an emerging healthcare field that still faces challenges. States loosened telehealth restrictions during the pandemic, but many new laws were considered temporary, according to Psychiatric Times. Additionally, navigating multiple licensure boards to increase your practice area can be difficult. A potential solution: let providers earn both a national and state license.
PMHNPs are advanced practice nurses who complete a nurse practitioner graduate program with a psychiatry focus. Like psychiatrists, these professionals can prescribe medication and offer psychotherapy (within the limits of state regulations, which vary from state to state). PMHNPs also develop and oversee patient care plans, meaning they monitor patients and practice medication management. PMHNPs must be excellent administrators to document symptoms and maintain charts.
As nursing leaders, PMHNPs can work with doctors and other clinicians. Depending on their seniority level and organizational structure, these professionals may be responsible for overseeing a nursing unit and managing RNs and technicians. They may even train incoming psychiatric RNs.
PMHNPs can work with multiple populations, potentially specializing in pediatric, family, gereatric, or substance abuse psychiatry. The APRN says most psychiatric nurses (70 percent) work in outpatient facilities such as mental health clinics, rather than inpatient facilities. Hospitals are the next-most common employment setting (16 percent). PMHNPs can even start a private practice, depending on state regulations.
These professionals have the same job descriptions as traditional PMHNPs; they just work using telemedicine platforms. Many PMHNPs do both. Top telehealth platforms include Zoom, FaceTime, EHR provider, Teladoc, and vidyo, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. Many make use of their organization’s internal systems as well.
Certain aspects of psychiatric nursing are impossible to perform over a distance. For instance, these professionals may need to administer medication and conduct in-person evaluations or tests. These situations may require making other arrangements or working with a healthcare provider in the room. For instance, PMHNPs can provide guidance to prison nurses over the phone, according to the Journal for Nurse Practitioners. They can also personally meet with prisoners via teleconferencing platforms.
Telehealth PHMNPs typically work for the same organizations as their in-person counterparts: outpatient clinics, nursing homes, drug and alcohol treatment centers, prisons, and schools. Thanks to advancements in videoconferencing technology, the main roadblock is restrictive legislation. Be sure to research your state’s policies, and stay updated on developments.
According to ZipRecruiter, PMHMPs earn nearly $150,000 per year while telehealth PMHNPs earn nearly $135,000. Several factors can influence this number, including your home state, your employer, and whether you have a nurse leadership role. Those in rural areas typically earn less than those in urban areas.
ZipRecruiter reports that the top states for PMHNPs include New Jersey, Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The site identifies Arizona, Iowa, California, Tennessee, and Massachusetts as the states with the most telehealth psychiatric nurse practitioner jobs.
PMHNPs typically start as RNs—experience is a common graduate admissions requirement. CUNY Hunter College requires at least two years of full-time RN experience. Many students decide to earn more than the minimum. According to a 2015 study, NPs worked an average of 13.75 years before completing a graduate program.
Those who pursue graduate education must choose between a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Both options include the necessary training and coursework to become a nurse practitioner. Doctoral programs are typically longer and more rigorous; most NPs have a master’s degree.
MSN programs include both general NP classes and specialty-specific coursework. Vanderbilt University students take courses like advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacotherapeutics, theories of individual and family psychotherapy, neuroscience for mental health practitioners, population-based mental health, advanced psychopharmacology, and diagnostic reasoning for the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.
Accredited MSN programs include at least 500 clinical hours—that’s a requirement to sit for the credentialing exam. Clinical rotations allow students to learn alongside experienced professionals in real settings.
Nursing education has recently seen an increase in the number of accredited online programs, including full and part-time options. The APNA says a quarter of advanced practice nurses in their 20s who responded to the survey reported completing all their didactic coursework online. Distance learning programs are effective and can save a great deal of time. Top schools like Yale University continue to launch new programs every year.
After completing all your education and clinical training, it’s time to become board certified. Hopeful nurse practitioners sit for the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certification (PMHNP-BC) exam. The test takes up to three and a half hours to complete. Questions address five areas: advanced practice skills, ethical and legal practices, psychotherapy and related theories, diagnosis and treatment, and scientific foundation. Those who pass the test can earn their state psychiatric nurse practitioner license.
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