Becoming a psychiatric nurse specialist is one of many specializations offered when obtaining an MSN. There are very specific challenges in this field of nursing, but many find that working in mental health is a rewarding career choice. Psychiatric nurse specialists provide primary mental health care to patients seeking mental health services in a wide range of settings. Mental health care includes the assessment, diagnosis, and management of mental health problems and psychiatric disorders.
Overview of a MSN – Psychiatric Nurse Specialist Program
- Students study the diagnosis of mental illnesses such as depression, dementia, bipolar disorder, paranoid personality disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, and schizophrenia.
- Coursework includes psychiatric assessment and diagnosis, symptom management, psychopharmacology, group and family therapy, and individual psychotherapy with adults.
- Coursework focuses on physical health assessment and health promotion, with particular emphasis on health risks faced by mentally ill adults.
- Students learn to assess the impact of medical conditions on psychiatric patients and promote healthy concepts to the lifestyle risks of patients with mental illness.
- Curriculum includes courses in counseling, rehabilitation, communication, crisis intervention, leadership, and patient management.
Steps to Become a Psychiatric Nurse Specialist
- Earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing.
- Receive a Registered Nurse Certification.
- Enroll and complete a MSN program with a concentration as a psychiatric nurse specialist from an accredited school like Capella University, Georgetown University, Kaplan University, South University, or University of Cincinnati.
- Obtain PNS certification and proper licensure, which varies by state.
Psychiatric Nurse Specialist Salary and Career Information
The job setting will vary depending on what specific job you get. Possible options include hospitals, private offices, outpatient centers, emergency and community-based mental health services, primary care clinics, forensic settings, schools, substance abuse centers, and recovery programs. While it is generally not a prerequisite to find a job, membership with the American Nurses Association (ANA) can increase your employability. Other membership benefits include access to the continuing education library, annual conferences, news updates relevant to the field, savings on ANA books, professional liability insurance, and a vast network to connect with.
The average salary of nurse practitioners varies by location, experience, and the type of employer you have. For more information on your earning potential, please refer to our nursing job outlook page.