FNP vs. PMHNP Nursing Specialties: What’s the Difference?

Are you planning on entering the medical field but are conflicted about what profession to choose and where to focus? If you enjoy working with different age categories of patients, from children to adults, a career as a family nurse practitioner can be very fulfilling for you. On the other hand, if you are passionate about helping patients overcome mental health issues, a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner is precisely what you need.

Students pursuing an FNP specialization take courses focused on family practice and provide primary care to patients of all ages. In contrast, PMHNP students take specialty courses on the signs and symptoms for mental health diagnosis of patients and the effective delivery of psychiatric care.

FNP vs PMHNP! Which specialty should you choose?

What is the PMHNP specialty in nursing?

The PMHNP specialty in nursing allows nurses to become psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. These practitioners provide mental health care to patients of all ages. Examples of what a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner may do include:

What is the FNP specialty in nursing?

The FNP specialty in nursing allows nurses to become family nurse practitioners. These practitioners provide primary health care services, and they may treat patients of all ages. Examples of what a family nurse practitioner may do include:

FNP vs. PMHNP

Here are some differences between the FNP and PMHNP nursing specialties:

Salary

Type of patient

Family nurse practitioners provide medical care for patients seeking treatment for a medical or physical ailment. This may include acute illnesses, injuries or infections. Similarly, some primary care family nurse practitioners may perform physical examinations, especially if they work in primary care settings.

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, however, provide medical care for patients seeking treatment for psychological or psychiatric illnesses. This may include treating patients requiring a higher level of care or living with complicated diseases or symptoms not treatable or reducible in a timely manner. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners also have the authorization to provide psychotherapy and diagnose patients based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), whereas family nurse practitioners do not.

Education

Becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner or family nurse practitioner requires completing an advanced practice degree in nursing and passing an exam. This involves completing a graduate degree or a similar higher field of study after becoming a registered nurse. If you already have a Master of Science in nursing (MSN), you may pursue a post-masters certificate to earn your FNP or PMHNP specialization. This gives you credit for courses you already completed in your masters course and applies the credits to the certificate program.

Most programs require you to complete general courses, specialized courses and clinical hours. Exact courses may vary by the program youre in or the school you attend. However, advanced practice degree programs typically include courses covering topics like:

Specialized courses to become a family nurse practitioner may include:

Specialized courses to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner may include:

The length of these programs will vary. Most require between two and seven years to complete, but this also depends on whether you enroll in the program part time or full time. Similarly, the qualifications you have before entering the specialization program, such as if you have an MSN already, may affect how long it takes you to earn your nurse practitioner specialization.

Certification and licenses

Certification and license requirements may vary by state, but most states require family nurse practitioners and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners to hold an active registered nurse (RN) license and a specialized certification. To become a family nurse practitioner, you must pass an exam from an accredited body like the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB). To become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, you need to pass the board certification exam from the ANCC.

Both types of practitioners may pursue further specialization through additional training. For example, a family nurse practitioner may complete coursework or training in cardiology or oncology. Similarly, if a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner wants to work with children, they need to finish additional coursework.

FNP and PMHNP similarities

Here are some similarities between the FNP and PMHNP nursing specialties:

Job duties

Family nurse practitioners and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners share the same core job duties. Both specialties focus on assessing, diagnosing and treating their patients, and both may treat patients of all ages. However, the specific aspects of care will vary based on specialty, and the nurse practitioners state may also affect their level of autonomy in providing patient care.

Essential skills

Family nurse practitioners and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners may require different specialized skills. However, they both require many of the same general nursing skills for success. Some examples of important skills for these nurse practitioners to develop include:

Career outlook

Work environment

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners and family nurse practitioners may work in a variety of settings, and these settings are often similar. Both may work in inpatient settings, such as hospitals, or outpatient settings, such as clinics. Based on where they work, they may choose to work in a further specialized department, such as emergency care. While state regulations may also affect where these nurse practitioners work, some may also be able to work in private practices or urgent care centers.

Work hours

Work hours for family nurse practitioners and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners both vary depending on their work environment. For example, those working in outpatient settings or private practices may enjoy a standard Monday through Friday schedule with regular business hours. However, those working in urgent care centers or hospitals may work at any hour or on any day of the week. Irregular hours may also involve rotating schedules with longer work hours in exchange for more days off per week or month.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

FAQ

Is PMHNP better than FNP?

The average hourly pay for the FNP is $46.22, while the PMHNP earns around $53 per hour. These numbers are a reflection of the national average for these two job fields. Things that will affect your hourly pay rate are what state you are working in, if you are in a specialty, and the setting in which you are working.

What is the highest paid nurse practitioner?

1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist ($181,040) The highest paid profession for an NP seems to be that of the Nurse Anesthetist. As of May 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts their median hourly wage at $87, making it the top paid position for a nurse with an MSN.

Can family nurse practitioners diagnose mental illness?

Abstract. In primary care settings, family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are often the first to see patients with mental illnesses. FNPs can diagnose and treat patients with uncomplicated mental illness, such as depression and anxiety, within their scope of practice (SOP).

Is FNP harder than nursing school?

Some people may find that mastering the initial concepts in Nursing school is much harder than building upon those concepts in Nurse practitioner school. On the other hand, some students find that nurse practitioner school and its advanced concepts are harder to grasp and apply in practice.

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