How To Earn Your Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification

Psych-Mental Health Nursing Certification Preparation Tools

Who needs a psychiatric nurse certification?

RNs who are already working as professionals but want to focus on providing psychiatric care may require certification to land the position they want. By offering psychiatric care that supports the difficulties patients are currently experiencing and figuring out how to stop more from occurring in the future, these nurses work to assist people, families, and communities with mental health needs.

An RN with certification is qualified to diagnose patients, determine whether mental health disorders exist or may exist, and prescribe treatment, including medication. An RN who occasionally cares for patients with mental health issues but is not certified is only able to manage a patient’s daily schedule and administer medications that have already been prescribed.

In addition to providing psychotherapy, certified psychiatric-mental health nurses (PMHNs) can pursue other advanced specialties in psychiatric nursing that open up even more job opportunities, such as those in administrative or educational roles, research, or administration.

What is a psychiatric nurse certification?

An RN’s reputation as having advanced knowledge of mental health care and a dedication to their patients can be strengthened by earning a certification in psychiatric nursing. Although certification is not always necessary to work in psychiatry, it increases opportunities for employment in a desired specialty and in high-demand positions.

By passing the psychiatric-mental health board certification exam provided by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), an RN can become certified in these fields. The competency-based exam measures fundamental abilities and knowledge pertinent to the clinical responsibilities of psychiatric nurses.

A nurse who successfully completes the exam is awarded the credential of PMH-BC (Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse-Board Certified). Psychiatric Mental Health Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (PMH-APRN) certification is an advanced credential available to nurse practitioners. Both credentials present chances for increased pay and more difficult job responsibilities. They must be renewed every five years.

How to earn psychiatric nurse certification

The steps to becoming certified as a psychiatric nurse are as follows:

1. Become a registered nurse

The initial step is to complete a nursing-focused educational program at a college or university, such as:

2. Practice as an RN for at least two years

Next, you must hold a full-time, professional clinical position as an RN for at least two years. Nurses can work in clinics, hospitals, private practices, and psychiatric hospitals, which may be especially advantageous to a nurse pursuing certification in psychiatric-mental health.

3. Consider earning a masters or doctoral degree

A master’s or doctoral degree is required for eligibility as a prerequisite for registered nurses who want to pursue certification as nurse practitioners in psychiatric mental health. Enroll in a graduate nursing program with a focus on psychiatric-mental health nursing and the chance to work in positions that offer practical training.

4. Obtain clinical practice and continuing education hours

Before scheduling a certification exam, you must complete at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in psychiatric nursing. This can be done in settings such as general or psychiatric hospitals, private practices, or through home health care organizations.

Within three years, complete at least 30 hours of psychiatric-mental health continuing education while accruing clinical practice hours. As long as the graduate program you may be enrolled in places a strong emphasis on psychiatric-mental health, these hours can come from that program.

5. Apply to take the certification exam

Set up a time to sit for the psychiatric-mental health board certification exam and pay the required fee. Membership in the American Psychiatric Nurses Association and the International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses has an impact on the rates for PMH-BC and PMH-APRN, respectively. Check with the ANCC for current costs.

You’ll be given a 90-day window after the board accepts your application to take the exam. Rescheduling is possible, but there is a fee.

6. Pass the board certification exam

Obtain a passing score on the PMH-BC or PMH-APRN exam to become board certified. The test lasts about three hours and covers the following four topics:

You will be qualified to work as a psychiatric-mental health nurse wherever your license is accepted after passing the exam.


How do I become a psychiatric nurse?

  1. Attend an accredited nursing school. There is some flexibility when it comes to degrees.
  2. Take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. …
  3. Earn a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner degree. …
  4. Complete the required number of clinical experience hours. …
  5. Become a board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner.

How hard is the PMHNP exam?

How difficult is the PMHNP ANCC exam then? To pass, you’ll need to obtain a scaled score of at least 350 points. You’ll need to pace yourself carefully because the range of possible scores is zero to 500.

Is psychiatric nursing class hard?

Because mental health nursing is so difficult, mental health nurses must rely on the abilities they acquire in their mental health courses to manage the difficult behaviors they encounter every day.

Is a psych nurse a real nurse?

Patients with psychiatric disorders like mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and substance abuse are cared for by a psychiatric or behavioral health nurse.

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