family nurse practitioner vs. psychiatric nurse practitioner

FNP vs. PMHNP: What is the Difference?

Your bachelor’s degree program prepared you for earning your registered nurse license. Your training covered diverse patient populations, in a variety of healthcare environments. Now, you are ready to take the next step to advance your nursing career. A master’s degree program offers more tailored study for nurses, enabling you to specialize in a desired area of nursing, work with certain demographics, and gain more autonomy in your role. Two popular choices for specialized nursing study are the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degree and the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) pathway.

Both the FNP and PMHNP pathways are offered at Goodwin University, for nurses looking to level-up their career. The question remains, which specialization is right for you—FNP vs. PMHNP? What are the differences between these career paths, and which career best aligns with your interests and goals?

Read on for a closer look at the differences and similarities between FNPs and PMHNPs, and which nursing credential could be the right choice for you.

Who will you care for? Patient populations for FNP vs. PMHNP

Many nurses choose a specialization based on the patient population with which they would like to work. For example, some nurses may prefer working with seniors, and others with infants. For nurses who enjoy a variety of patient demographics, both FNPs and PMHNPs work with patients across the lifespan, from children to adults. Family Nurse Practitioners provide primary care for children, adults, and elderly patients, and can specialize in women’s health. PMHNPs offer psychiatric mental healthcare for children, adults, and older adults. Both types of practitioners take on complex patients, which could mean someone with multiple comorbidities or clients with unique, personal needs. Both FNPs and PMHNPs take a holistic approach to healthcare. However, PMHNPs are primarily concerned with people with acute to chronic psychiatric disorders. FNPs, meanwhile, help patients with a wider variety of symptoms and conditions.

Where will you work? Work environments for PMHNPs vs. FNPs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 47 percent of nurse practitioners work in offices of physicians, and 26 percent work in hospitals. However, FNPs and PMHNPs might also find work at:

  • Skilled nursing facilities, such as rehabilitation centers for occupational or physical rehab treatment
  • Walk-in, urgent care, inpatient or outpatient clinics
  • Correctional facilities
  • Community health centers

Expanding your job search into some of these more uncommon environments could bring welcome surprises. While the core goals of working as an APRN in any of these environments are the same, the workplace culture in these environments can differ greatly. You might open a door into a new world of nursing and professional development that you hadn’t previously considered. While working at a correctional facility, for example, you’ll likely become aware of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. A nursing job at a rehabilitation center may introduce you to the American Occupational Therapy Association. Organizations like these offer a valuable professional network, and as an FNP or a PMHNP, they are bound to help you build your career both on your talents and passions. Your in-demand skillset in these environments may help you attain opportunities with room for advancement, particularly because they are further off the beaten path from a physician’s office or hospital job.

When will you work? Scheduling for FNPs vs. PMHNPs

For nurses who have a family or other important priorities to attend to outside of work hours, you may be comforted to know that both an FNP and PMHNP can work standard, 9-to-5 scheduling. Surely, when training for your BSN, you had to partake in early shifts, late shifts, overnights, doubles, and other rigorous schedules. If you’ve decided that out-of-the-ordinary hours are not for you, you’ve likely avoided ER nurse job postings. FNPs and PMHNPs benefit from a schedule that is within normal office hours, which typically aligns better with school drop-off and pickup from your kids’ extra-curricular activities, and lets you choose how you’d like to spend your evening hours and weekends.

What will you learn? PMHNP vs. FNP Studies

Goodwin University’s FNP program is a 47-credit curriculum journey that takes the student through theory, pathophysiology, pharmacology, physical assessment, healthcare policy and politics, population health, and of course advanced practice nursing throughout the lifespan. FNP students can take classes entirely online, while also gaining hands-on experience through 600 hours of clinical training to prepare for the workforce.

Goodwin University’s PMHNP curriculum is 50 credits and includes theory, pathophysiology, pharmacology, physical assessment, healthcare policy and politics, and population health as well. Key differences between this program and the FNP are that the PMHNP includes neuropsychopharmacology, mental health disorder class, and advanced practice psychiatric mental health care across the lifespan. PMHNP students benefit from online classes combined with real-world experience, with 600 hours of clinical training.

How do you get started?: FNP vs. PMHNP admissions requirements

Considering what it takes to get into an FNP or PMHNP program? While they vary by school, the admissions requirements for each program at Goodwin University are similar. For Goodwin graduate programs, you’ll need to complete a graduate application, submit a transcript that shows you earned a GPA of at least 3.0, and provide a resume as well as proof of immunizations, plus pay a $50 fee.

PMHNP applicants as well as FNP applicants must prepare the same admissions requirements, simply with a different focus. Both FNP and PMHNP applicants must show a current RN license, write a personal statement about their personal goals as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner or a Family Nurse Practitioner, and participate in a phone interview. They’ll also need to have at least two years of experience providing direct patient care as an RN, within the last five years. The ability to travel to training sites is required, as well as a background check and drug screening.

Since you’ll need to articulate your interest to be considered for either program, now would be a great time to read more about Goodwin University’s FNP and PMHNP programs! To learn more, please visit us online, or call 800-889-3282. You may explore the programs online by visiting: