A recent nationwide ad campaign by The American Association of Nurse Practitioners, described in Forbes Magazine, focuses on providing consumer information on the benefits of receiving care from a Nurse Practitioner. Nurse Practitioners are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) who are expected to see a 31%, ten-year, job growth expectation as calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Most of us have heard of Family Nurse Practitioners, but an increasingly growing APRN field is in psychiatric/mental health. Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP) offer primary care services to the psychiatric-mental health population and develop treatment plans based on assessment, diagnosis and evaluation of treatment plan effectiveness. Training for this specialty requires APRNs to have either a Masters of Science in Nursing with a psychiatric/mental health specialty concentration or a Doctor of Nursing Practice.
Colleges and universities offer online degree programs in this specialty which allows for practicing nurses to obtain the PMHNP certification while continuing to work. Programs should hold, at minimum, accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Best Medical Degrees has done some leg work for you to help you identify programs you may wish to consider.
State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA)
Not all online PMHNP degree programs are available to students in all 50 states. The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) establishes comparable national standards for distance education or, online, programs. Be certain, before making a commitment to a program, that you verify yours is a member state. This information is available on schools’ websites or you can talk with the admissions officer for the school you’re considering.
This ranking looked at the following criteria: 1) online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program, 2) program and university rankings by U.S. News and World Report, Washington Monthly and Forbes Magazine rankings of universities and colleges, 3) schools holding accreditation by Department of Education approved accrediting agencies, specifically, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and 4) estimated tuition cost ranges for schools based on data from the 2016-2017 National Center for Educational Statistics data and school websites, to develop tuition ranges. Tuition estimates do not include any additional fees accessed by the school or university and 5) academic program and clinical experiences.
Tuition Range $15,000-19,000
1. Eastern Kentucky University
This is 100% online MSN Psychiatric Mental Health Practitioner. Requiring 46 credit hours of study, with core courses in: theoretical foundations, advanced practice nursing issues, principles in epidemiology, an evidence based practice project and synthesizing evidence for advanced practice. Additional coursework will include: advanced health assessment, advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology, applied psychopharmacology, practicum courses and an internship. Note: The university has issued the following statement to clarify media reports on the school’s MSN program: “It has been incorrectly reported by local news outlets that EKU’s MSN program has been suspended. The Nursing Administration concentration within the MSN program has been suspended. However, the FNP and PMHNP concentrations will remain and are not affected by budget reductions. Please disregard any reports that contain conflicting information.”
The nursing program holds accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Among other requirements, applicants for the MSN-Pyschiatric Mental Health Practitioner program should have a BSN from an accredited college or university, a free and unrestricted nursing license and at least one year nursing experience. You should check your state’s eligibility for this program through EKU’s SARA Status webpage.
The nursing program has been named one of U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs. In addition, Forbes Magazine rates EKU one of America’s Top Colleges and Washington Monthly has rated EKU one of its Best Bang for the Buck universities. EKU was established in 1906 in and has an enrollment of over 11,000 students. The university is located in Richmond, Kentucky.
Tuition Range $20,000-30,000
2. New Mexico State University
The New Mexico State University School of Nursing offers an online BSN to DNP degree in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner degree. Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the program involves studies in: research in nursing, nursing informatics, professional roles for advanced practice nursing, evidence based practice, diagnosis of mental disorders, neurophysiology, psychotherapy (individual, group, and family), advance pathobiology, health assessment, pharmacology, epidemiology, psychopharmacology, health needs of special populations and clinical experience. The program also requires a once a year, on-campus, week long requirement; and, a requires a one-week, clinical immersion each year after the first year. The program consists of 72-73 credit hours and 1,024 clinical hours requirements. Admissions requires, among other criteria, an unencumbered nursing license and a BSN from an accredited nursing program. The program may be completed on a fulltime or parttime basis.
New Mexico State University has been recognized as one of the Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs and Best Nursing Schools-Masters Programs by U.S. News and World Report. Washington Monthly designates New Mexico State University as one of its Best Bang for the Buck schools and is ranked as one of Forbes Magazine’s America’s Top Colleges. Founded in 1888 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and has an enrollment of over 14,000 students.
3. University of South Carolina
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing accredits this Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) degree which is offered online in a hybrid format. The program requires 45 credit hours of didactic studies. Coursework may involve studies in: theoretical concepts in nursing, advanced pathophysiology in nursing, pharmacologic management, diagnostic interpretation and therapeutic modalities, research methods and clinical experiences. Be sure to check with your faculty advisor regarding more information on clinical experiences and what facilities are acceptable for you to conduct your experience. Students are required to travel to the USC campus a minimum of one time per clinical course. Currently, the online program is able to admit students from: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington DC. Students are urged to contact their state licensing board to verify that this program meets your state’s requirement for licensure. Among other criteria, students must hold a BSN from an accredited nursing program and an unencumbered nursing license (along with a screenshot of the board of nursing as proof of license).
Located in Columbia, South Carolina, USC was established in 1801 and has grown to a total enrollment of over 34,000 students. USC is highly regarded, earning Top Public Schools, National Universities, Best Value Schools and Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report. The School of Nursing has been ranked one of U.S. News and World Report’s Best Nursing Schools-Masters and Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs. Forbes Magazine ranks the University of South Carolina as one its America’s Top Colleges and USC has been named one of Kiplinger Report’s Best College Values.
4. Wilkes University
Wilkes University’s Passan School of Nursing offers an online Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner degree program holding accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. There are two pathways to this degree through either the 52 credit hour RN to MSN or the 42 credit hour MSN for those with a BSN. The curriculum requires 24 hours of core coursework in: advanced health assessment, theoretical foundations in nursing science, nursing research, advanced pathophysiology, pharmacology, a scholarly review and others. Specialty courses include: clinical modalities, psychopathology, theories and advanced clinical modalities, advanced practice in psychiatric/mental health nursing, diagnostic reasoning for nurse practitioners, psychopharmacology and mental health perspectives of culturally diverse populations. There is a brief on-campus residency required while taking advanced health assessment and advanced practice in psychiatric/mental health nursing. Best Medical Degrees is unable to determine the length of those residencies, so be certain to discuss this with the Graduate Nursing Admissions Office. Graduates are eligible to sit for the ANCC examination for Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.
Established in 1933 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, Wilkes University has been recognized by Washington Monthly as one of its Best Bang for the Bucks universities. Princeton Review named Wilkes University on its Best Northeastern Colleges list, U.S. News and World Report rates the university as one of the nations best universities, G.I Jobs has designated Wilkes University as Military Friendly School and The Economist rated Wilkes 25th in the nation for economic value. Wilkes University has seven colleges and has an enrollment of over 5,000 students.
5. Anderson University
Anderson University offers a MSN Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Requiring 49 credit hours, this is a hybrid program which requires four campus visits during each semester of study. These on-campus visits will include skills practice and may feature guest lecturers. The online coursework will include studies in: advanced pathophysiology, advanced physical assessment, advanced pharmacology, advanced assessment processes in mental health across the lifespan, management of the complex mental health patient, as well as 500 clinical hours. Among other admission requirements, students are required to have a BSN degree from a nationally accredited nursing program and an unencumbered and active nursing license.
Established in 1917, Anderson University is located in Greenville, South Carolina and has an enrollment in excess of 3,400 students. Recognized as one of the Best Value Schools among Regional Universities by U.S. News and World Report, Best Southeastern Colleges by The Princeton Review and a Best Christian College by Institutional Research and Evaluation, Inc.
6. East Tennessee State University
East Tennessee State University (ETSU) College of Nursing has a 100% online MSN-Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner degree which is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Nursing Education (ACNE) and has an impressive 100% pass rate on PMHNP certification. Studies include 48 hours of coursework in: health assessment and health assessment practicum, psychopharmacology, advanced clinical pharmacology, advanced psychiatric nursing care, advanced family psychiatric nursing and practicum, interpersonal treatment modalities and practicum, nursing research for evidence based practice, etc. The program also requires 500 clinical hours. Among other admission criteria, students must have an unencumbered nursing license, an earned bachelor degree from an accredited school. This program isn’t available for students from all 50 states and the school recommends you check with the appropriate board of nursing in your state to verify whether the program meets requirements for online degree programs.
ETSU College of Nursing has been ranked as one of U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs, a Best Bang for the Buck university by Washington Monthly and one of America’s Top Colleges by Forbes Magazine. ETSU is located in Johnson City, Tennessee and traces its founding to 1911 when it opened as a teacher’s college. The College of Nursing also traces its beginnings to 1911 when it graduated 10 nursing students. The university now has an enrollment of over 14,000 students 11 colleges.
7. Frontier Nursing University
Frontier Nursing University has a MSN-Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner online program which allows you to complete your clinical experience in your home community. Didactic studies will involve 45 hours in: principles of health promotion, epidemiology and biostatistics, pathophysiology, advanced physical assessment, evidence practice and advanced pharmacology. Additional courses include studies in psychopharmacologic/neuroscience foundations for mental health care, psychotherapy foundations across the lifespan, psych-mental health care of individuals & groups, psychiatric care of serious mental illness and vulnerable populations/families and integrating psych-mental health care. Clinical hours and a final comprehensive review are required for graduation. This program holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and participates in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). The program is not eligible for students from California and Massachusetts. Admission requires, among other documents, a BSN from an accredited program, a current, unrestricted nursing license and one year nursing experience.
Ranked one of the Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs and Best Nursing Schools-Masters by U.S. News and World Report. Located in Hyden, Kentucky, Frontier Nursing University was founded in 1939 and offered the first Family Nurser Practitioner program in the country. A small university with a little over 2,200 students, Frontier Nursing University has a high certification pass rate for its Nurse Practitioner graduates.
8. University of South Alabama
The University of South Alabama provides an online Psychiatric (Family) Nurse Practitioner degree which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). This hybrid program offers online courses in: physio-pathological basis of advanced nursing, evidence-based practice and quality improvement in healthcare, advanced pharmacology, advanced nursing assessment, organizational and systems leadership, introduction to family psychology for the Nurse Practitioner, family psychology. The program also includes 600 clinical practicum hours which may be conducted in the student’s home community. Prior to clinical practicum participation, its mandated that students attend an on-campus orientation over a two-day period, that will include clinical skills workshops. The program requires that applicants hold a BSN from an accredited degree program, two years nursing experience and an unrestricted nursing license as well as other criteria.
USA was established in 1963 and has been ranked by U.S. News and World Report in its National Universities ranking. The university has also been ranked as one of America’s Top Colleges by Forbes Magazine. The Carnegie Foundation has also named USA as a Higher Research Education institution.The university has 15,000 students enrolled and is located in Mobile, Alabama.
9. University Southern Indiana
This is a hybrid, online Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) degree program which is accredited by the CCNE. In addition to the online coursework, on-campus visits are required. The program requires 44 credit hours of coursework and 655 clinical hours. Clinical experiences may be completed in the student’s home community under an approved, qualified preceptor. Coursework may include 18 hours of core studies in: evidence-based practice, theoretical foundations for Advanced Practice Nurses, healthcare informatics, population based healthcare and policy. Clinical core studies involve: advanced pathophysiology, advanced health assessment and clinical pharmacology. Specialty courses include: psychopharmocology and psychiatric/mental health for families. Due to state regulations and SARA requirements, this program may not be available to students from all states. Applicants must provide, in addition to other admission requirements, a BSN from an accredited undergraduate nursing program and an unencumbered nursing license. The school recommends one-year nursing experience or two thousand hours of clinical nursing experience over the past five years.
Located in Evansville, Indiana, the University of Southern Indiana was established in 1965 and has an enrollment of over 11,000 students. The College of Nursing and Health Professions at USI has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as being Best Nursing Schools for its Doctor of Nursing Practice and Masters degree; and ranked one of the Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs.
10. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center provides an online MSN Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). This degree may be completed in six semesters and requires 49 credit hours. Although the exact coursework isn’t specified on the TTUHSC website, the school states the program has a focus on mental health promotion, early mental health intervention for children, adolescents and families. There is a focus on the establishment of a psychiatric/mental health practice in rural communities implementing face-to-face interaction as well as telemental health delivery systems. There is an emphasis on evidence based practice and management of patients with complex mental health conditions across the life span. Applicants will need, among other criteria, an unencumbered nursing license and a BSN from an accredited program. Prior graduate coursework in nursing may be eligible for transfer.
U.S. News and World Report rates Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center as one of the Best Nursing Schools-Maters and Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs. Forbes Magazine rates Texas Tech University as one of America’s Top Colleges; and, has been named one of the nations Top National Universities by Washington Monthly and Best College for Your Money from Money Magazine. The university opened in 1925 in Lubbock, Texas, with four colleges. Texas Tech University has an overall enrollment of over 37,000 students, with the Health Sciences Center having over 5,000 enrolled students.