Home Pop Culture Skills and Qualities You Need as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Skills and Qualities You Need as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Young home caregiver nurse sitting and talking with senior women.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Skills and Qualities You Need as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner: Skills & qualities you need to succeed as a mental health field professional. Meeting increased demand for mental health and psychiatric care.

Despite being one of the most demanding career paths in the world today, nursing is also described as a highly rewarding experience by those who choose to do this kind of work. As a career path, nursing is currently in extremely high demand due to a shortage of these healthcare professionals in the US and is expected to see a lot of growth over the next decade. Along with being professionals who are highly skilled in patient care and health, nurses who succeed in their careers will often possess many different unique personality traits, qualities and skills that help them be effective at their job. 

Currently, the demand for nurse practitioners in every area is on the rise. These are key healthcare professionals that often have more responsibility and authority compared to registered nurses. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners work closely with patients who are suffering from psychiatric conditions. They work with individuals, groups and families to evaluate, diagnose and provide treatment for a range of mental health and psychiatric conditions. Here are some of the main skills that are required to work successfully as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. 

Communication Skills

Within the role of a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, or PMHNP, is a lot of communication. It is the job of the PMHNP to communicate effectively with patients. This is often more important within this role since a psychiatric nurse practitioner will usually treat patients with psychotherapy and other communication-based treatments. Patients might often be feeling scared, unwell, or depressed and it’s important for nurse practitioners to be able to communicate with them effectively and put them at ease with excellent listening skills. In addition to communication with patients, PMHNPs will often act as an advocate, particularly for patients with mental health difficulties, and it is just as important for them to be able to communicate effectively with other healthcare professionals in order to ensure that the proper standard of care for the patient is provided. 

Empathy and Compassion

The role of a PMHNP will often involve working with patients who are experiencing some serious psychiatric concerns. Nurse practitioners working in this specialist area need to be able to empathize with and put themselves in the shoes of the patient, being able to imagine how they must be feeling at the time and using this information to drive their decisions when it comes to patient care and treatment. In some cases, PMHNPs might work with patients who are unable to communicate their needs effectively, and it’s important for nurse practitioners to be compassionate, patient and gentle with them as they try to determine what is wrong and what the best course of future action is in order to help the patient begin to feel like themselves again. 

Detail Oriented

The career of a nurse practitioner is one of precision and attention to detail. Since nurse practitioners have the additional responsibility and authority to give treatment and prescribe medication, paying attention to detail is especially crucial since there is no room to make mistakes or errors when it comes to patient health and wellbeing. In the field of mental health and psychiatric care, attention to detail may be even more important since many conditions are not always cut and dry. Unlike physical care where it is often obvious exactly what is wrong and what is needed to treat the patient, psychiatric nurse practitioners may often need to be even more observant of the details to figure out exactly what is going on. 



Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners are not just there to help patients who have mild depression and anxiety. Often, they will be treating patients who have serious psychiatric conditions and mental health concerns that could result in very dramatic and serious symptoms. Nurse practitioners need to be open-minded and curious about mental health beyond the more common complaints that a large percentage of the population will experience at some point in their lives. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners might find themselves working with people who have serious symptoms of conditions such as schizophrenia or people who have been admitted to a secure unit as a result of crimes that they have committed due to diminished responsibility. 

Commitment to Learning

It is only recently that the world has begun to realize the impact of mental health on our everyday lives and just how important our psychiatric health can actually be. Because of this, there is still a lot for us to learn about our mental health and wellbeing, different mental health conditions, what causes them, and the most effective treatments for them. For psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, this means accepting that there is still going to be a lot for them to learn even after getting their advanced degree, getting licensed as a nurse practitioner and starting work in this role. These nurse practitioners must be dedicated to keeping up to date with the latest research, treatments, and further information that is made available about mental health as researchers learn more about it. 


Any good nurse practitioner needs to be somebody who is confident in their own abilities and knowledge. To keep these confidence levels high, nurse practitioners need to constantly work towards improving their abilities and making sure that they know exactly what to do if there is anything that they are unsure of. For psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, this often means spending time with mental health experts, making professional contacts to seek advice from in the future and working closely with other mental health professionals to learn more about the patients that they treat. Since nurse practitioners are permitted full practice authority in twenty US states allowing them to treat patients without the need for them to be supervised or signed off by a doctor, a high level of confidence in their own abilities is crucial. 

Why Consider a Career as a PMNP?

If you enjoy helping others and are interested in mental health and wellbeing, working as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner could be an ideal choice of role for you. There are many reasons to consider a career in this role including:

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner with a patient.

High Demand:

As the primary care physician shortage rocks the US, more and more nurse practitioner roles are becoming available. While family nurse practitioners are in the highest demand due to the shortage of doctors in this area, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners are also needed to meet the growing needs of a population that is seeking more help for mental health concerns than ever before. This is even more apparent after the COVID-19 pandemic, with statistics suggesting that the amount of people seeking help for their mental health has increased by around four times since before the crisis. The stigma that has long surrounded mental health is finally beginning to fall away, and the demand for good mental health professionals is likely to continue growing as more and more people realize that there is no shame in asking for help. 

Interesting Work:

As a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, you will get to enjoy a very interesting role that allows you to work with people from all walks of life. In this role, you can also work in a variety of different healthcare settings including hospitals, psychiatric units, residential programs, outpatient clinics, doctor’s offices, prisons and more. While psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners might not deal with the same fast-paced emergencies every day compared to nursing in the ER and urgent care centers, no two days will ever be the same. It is an ideal role for anybody who is interested in working with people, learning more about people and what makes them tick. 

Further Career Options:

Working as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner might not be your final goal. Once you have gained the qualifications needed to work in this career and some experience in the field, you can aim even higher. Ambitious nurse practitioners often find themselves working towards nurse leadership and executive positions, playing an active part in improving healthcare policy or working in colleges and nursing schools to educate the next generation of nurses. 

High Reward:

For many people, mental health and psychiatric conditions are a serious and debilitating part of their lives. As a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, the ability to use your role at work to help these people overcome mental health challenges and live a happy and fulfilling life after treatment can make everything about the role extremely worth it. For nurse practitioners who choose this specialty area, knowing that they may often be the reason why somebody decides to continue going, or feels a little bit more hopeful after suffering with their mental health, brings a sense of reward and fulfilment like no other. 

Today, mental health care services are becoming more and more important as an increasing number of people seek help and support with their psychiatric wellbeing. If you are interested in mental health and like helping others lead happier lives, a role as a PMHNP might be ideal for you.