4 Steps to Becoming a Psychiatric Nurse

The number of Americans with mental health issues has increased significantly over the last decade. Recent reports show that over 50 million people in the US experience some form of mental health issue. These people depend on psychiatric nurses to manage their mental health problems. The rising number of people with mental health challenges and the nursing shortage has increased the demand for psychiatric nurses.

However, not everyone can become a psychiatric nurse as it requires using a special form of caring to improve a patient’s mental health situation. Despite the many challenges, Psychiatric nursing is a rewarding and fulfilling career. The good thing is that you can take PMHNP programs online and take advantage of the growing demand for psychiatric nurses for career growth. In this post, we’ll look at the steps you should follow if you want to be a mental health nurse:

1. Earn a Nursing Degree

To become a mental health nurse, you first need to complete a nursing program. You can get a Bachelor’s or an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). BSN programs usually take about four years to finish, including general courses. If you already have an ADN degree, you can choose RN to BSN programs, which will take approximately 20 months to complete.

An advanced placement option can also be another great way to get your BSN if you are a licensed vocational nurse. A BSN program equips you with fundamental nutrition, anatomy, and developmental psychology knowledge. If you’re in another field, you can seamlessly switch to nursing through accelerated BSN programs.

2. Gain Experience as a Registered Nurse

After getting your BSN, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to get your license and become a registered nurse. The licensure requirements can vary from state to state, so it’s important to consult your state nursing board. You also need to have at least a year of nursing experience before enrolling in a PMHNP degree program. These experiences can help you decide whether you want to pursue advanced nursing practice and what area of specialization will help you achieve your career goals.

3. Get a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Earning a Graduate PMHNP Program like a Master’s in Nursing from a recognized institution can allow you to specialize and become a mental health nurse. A master’s program typically takes approximately 18 to 24 months, including coursework and clinical placement. You can also complete a doctorate nursing program, which usually takes three years and involves clinical research, practice management, and leadership. Graduate-level programs usually require taking courses like pharmacology, neurophysiology, and physiology.

4. Complete Licensure Requirements

After you’ve earned an MSN degree, you need to obtain additional certification to become a psychiatric nurse. The ANCC offers certification exams designed to assess whether you’re prepared to perform practitioner duties. To obtain certification, you need to meet several requirements, including having an active RN license, at least one year of nursing experience as an RN, and clinical psychiatric nursing hours.


Like any other nursing role, you need passion and a desire for improvement to thrive as a psychiatric nurse. Following the above steps can help you successfully become a psychiatric nurse who can develop care plans for patients with mental health problems and treat them with compassion.

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