pysch NP nursing skills

5 Mental Health Nursing Skills Needed to Become a Psychiatric NP

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNPs) help ordinary people overcome enormous mental health obstacles and achieve more productive, comfortable, and fulfilling lives. To adopt such a noble undertaking, this type of advanced nurse practitioner must gain key mental health nursing skills through education and hands-on experience.

A specialized master’s degree in Nursing (MSN), dedicated to aspiring PMHNPs, can help develop this level of skill. PMHNP programs are designed to embed essential knowledge and qualities into the next generation of mental health care workers. With 600 hours of collaborative clinical training taken across seven semesters and completed by an action-oriented capstone project, Goodwin’s PMHNP program graduates are more than prepared to tackle this tough yet rewarding career.

Do you think you have what it takes to become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner? Read on to learn about the top mental health nursing skills a PMHNP should possess in their career.

Top Skills and Qualities of a Psychiatric NP

 1. Collaborative

Often, a patient arrives for skilled mental health services after receiving a referral from other healthcare providers. Perhaps a patient sees their general doctor and reports feeling mentally unwell or presents symptoms that are indicative of mental health problems. A family member, caregiver, or friend could notice a small or large behavioral change in their loved one. A person could experience an acute mental health event that requires hospitalization. It’s clear that no matter the pathway that moves a person to receive mental health care, the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner must collaborate with other nurses, doctors, specialists, family members, and loved ones so that they may fully understand the situation and background. PMHNPs are also likely to work with psychologists or psychiatrists, case managers, social workers, and caregivers to reinforce or bolster treatment plans. A statistic that illustrates the breadth of the network of each mental health case, is that, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 youth (6-17 years old) in the U.S. experience mental illness each year. Successful PMHNP treatment goes hand-in-hand with collaboration because a patient’s personal and medical care network must remain informed.

 2. Adaptable

Simply put, humans can be unpredictable. Naturally, someone who works with the human brain should always be ready to be surprised! PMHNPs develop and evaluate treatment plans which are under continual evaluation. No two minds are alike, so finding a solution is never a one-size-fits-all approach. In a 2020 article published in the journal Psychiatry, researchers analyzed 126 questionnaires and interviews that clinicians use to determine patient treatment plans. They found that though these tools are reliable for individuals, results are applied inconsistently to symptoms. In conclusion, the mental health diagnostic and treatment framework could use an injection of standardization. Until the field arrives at a better symptom aggregation method, adaptability is a particularly key trait that PMHNPs should embrace, especially in diagnostic and treatment work.

 3. Motivational

Mental health diagnoses can be a delicate subject. Unlike setting a bone or stitching a wound, there are rarely direct physical results from treatment. You can’t watch a person’s mind heal from a substance abuse disorder in a comparable, visual way that you can monitor a bodily fissure mending. Positive results from mental health treatment usually come in the form of behavioral adjustments or a patient’s communication of status changes, such as feeling less anxious or depressed. A PMHNP needs to take a motivational approach with their patients, especially because the healing process can seem invisible. Great PMHNPs prompt patients to recognize and build on change resulting from counseling and/or medication, lifestyle alterations, and other approaches to mental health improvement and maintenance.

 4. Patient

Many people suffering from mental health challenges require long-term professional case management, even those who first present an acute psychiatric case. A successful PMHNP has patience, understanding that healing might be gradual, intermittent, and not necessarily linear. Each patient or case will have a unique timeline, which is something that a PMHNP must be able to manage. Furthermore, benchmarks and goal-setting should also be patient-centered and realistic for each person, given their baseline and history.

5. Equitable

We’ve made some strides in our global systems to overcome gender, racial, economic, and cultural disparities, yet equitability in terms of access to healthcare and treatment of the individual is still a hot-button issue. Aside from access and treatment hurdles, mental health challenges still carry a stigma that manifests in myriad ways. In fact, according to a 2021 Sapien Labs report, over half of all people globally who experience a clinical level of mental health risks do not seek help. These people do not seek help because either they decide to focus on self-help, they don’t think that professional attention will help, or they don’t know how to seek help. However, unfortunately, in the United States, the major reason people reported not seeking help is a lack of confidence in mental health treatment. One way to combat distrust in mental health attention is for PMHNPs to ensure they are socially and culturally aware. PMHNPs should seek to learn about their patients’ backgrounds, beliefs, upbringing, traditions, and values. Fostering this deeper understanding of the individual means that the PMHNP can approach treatment from an equitable perspective and reap better results.

Learn how to become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner here.

Gaining the Psychiatric Nursing Skills to Succeed

Do you think you have the foundational skills that could be the backbone for a career in mental health? To learn more about Goodwin University’s PMHNP program, including tuition, curriculum, and flexibility, visit us online, or call 800-889-3282, for more information today!