Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

psychiatric-nurse-practitionerA psychiatric nurse practitioner (PNP) is a nurse who can act as a primary mental health care provider and who fills many–but not all–of the functions of a doctor. PNPs have strong medical backgrounds and experience in psychiatric settings.

Training and Requirements

At minimum, a psychiatric nurse practitioner must have a bachelor’s degree and become a registered nurse. They must then obtain a master’s or doctoral degree. PNPs must take board examinations in psychiatric nursing to become licensed, and typically must complete ongoing continuing education requirements established by their state’s board. There is an ongoing nursing shortage that extends to PNPs.

PNPs are governed by many of the same rules as psychiatrists. They must, for example, adhere to strict confidentiality standards and correctly diagnose illnesses prior to prescribing medication.

Role in Psychiatric Care

PNPs practice in a variety of settings, but are most commonly found in hospitals, nursing homes, and public health departments. They have significantly more autonomy in decision-making than either registered nurses or licensed practical nurses and can dispense medication to psychiatric patients. Some work in nurse practitioner offices or fill in for psychiatrists. Psychiatric nurse practitioners can and do provide psychotherapy, in addition to managing the medical side of psychiatric illnesses. They may also offer advice and support to people and their families just as a psychiatrist or other medical doctor might.

PNP care is typically less expensive than the care of a psychiatrist, and patients may have to wait shorter periods of time to obtain an appointment with PNPs.


  1. About psychiatric-mental health nurses. (n.d.). American Psychiatric Nurses Association. Retrieved from
  2. Psychiatric nurse practitioner. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. What is an NP? (n.d.). American College of Nurse Practitioners. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 07-17-2017

  • Leave a Comment
  • Kayla

    December 7th, 2015 at 7:21 PM

    I’m highly suicidal and everyday I’m surprised when I don’t do it. I’m 15. I self-harm. I don’t have a therapist or anything but if i want to get help, im not sure where to go. Do i go to the ER?

  • The Team

    December 7th, 2015 at 7:55 PM

    Thank you for your comment, Kayla. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at

    Warm regards,
    The Team

  • Vikki B

    July 7th, 2016 at 11:03 AM

    I am searching for a counselor/therapist at a facility/clinic that also has a Psychiatric Nurse practioner & psychiatrist for help for my anxiety disorder /panic attacks I am in Dupage County, Illinois

  • Kathi

    September 18th, 2016 at 8:31 PM

    I have severe anxiety and depression. I am looking for someone who can help me with this and who takes my health insurance. I had a psych NP when I was pregnant w/my son, but we no longer live anywhere near her office.
    I know I need some help in coping & learning how to live…I can’t go on like this.
    Have been told by dr he thinks EMDR would be good for me as well.

  • The Team

    September 19th, 2016 at 10:18 AM

    Hi Kathi,
    Thank you so much for your inquiry and interest in working with a therapist. You can search for a mental health professional near you on the Directory, here:

    If you click “Advanced Search,” you may specify that you’re looking for a therapist to help with anxiety and depression.

    Please keep in mind that is an exclusive directory. If you have trouble finding a professional in your area, don’t be discouraged–it may mean you’ll have better luck doing a Google search or asking for a referral from a trusted health professional, such as your doctor.

    Wishing you the very best in your healing journey, Kathi! ♥

    Kind regards,
    The Team

  • George m

    October 2nd, 2016 at 11:57 PM

    He needs inpatient treatment care. Long t. he doesn’t want to take care. Of his self. sometimes he said he what to kill his self

  • DarcieD

    August 21st, 2020 at 6:45 PM

    This article should be removed. If you want to do an article on what a PMHNP does, perhaps it might be good to ask one? This is incomplete and incorrect information. And they’re not “cheaper” or more easy to get an appointment with, either. The cost of copay to the patient is the same, and the patient outcome is similar or better compared to that of a psychiatrist, but insurance pays the NP 15% less. I’m curious: you wrote that PMHNPs do some but “not all” of the functions of a psychiatrist – which functions are those? As a PMHNP I’d like to know!
    LPNs and RNs – and aides, in nursing homes, and patients, in their own homes, “dispense medications”. Anyone can do that. APRNS – which is the category under which all NPs fall, and means “Advanced Practice Registered Nurses” *prescribe* medications, in most states independently, and in states that don’t want to have any NPs in their states, under a “collaborative” agreement with a physician who charges the APRN to talk on the phone or in person every month or so. There are more odd things about this article – “At minimum, a psychiatric nurse practitioner must have a bachelor’s degree and become a registered nurse. “……….No, that isn’t how things work. No one can get board certified with a BSN. That is not a “minimum” requirement to take the boards – it is a prerequisite to being accepted to grad school in a NP program.

    It’d be best maybe to start over with this topic?

  • LaurenGT

    August 22nd, 2020 at 11:20 AM

    Thanks for your feedback! I’ve passed it along to our content team.

  • Joan

    April 18th, 2021 at 10:36 AM

    Maybe you should consider hiring professional content writers with experience using peer-reviewed and evidence-based ideas as their source of information. This article has some misleading information. Helathcare is a sensitive field and whatever you write should be proven facts.

  • Meagan

    June 27th, 2021 at 4:29 PM

    Also, NP’s should not be providing psychotherapy, as they are not trained to do so.

  • Joe

    August 11th, 2021 at 9:33 AM

    Hi Meagan
    I am a psychiatric nurse practitioner and have been trained in most modalities of therapy. I provider psychotherapy and also prescribe medications. Meagan, can you please provide your source that allowed your misinformation. If you need assistance properly citing your source I have also been “trained” to do so.

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