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One of the reasons why you should consider a career in psych is the incredible demand for skilled nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and physician assistants. Hiring managers are looking for psych APRNs or PAs who ideally have experience working with the same population and specialty area they would see in the role. However, we’re also finding that they’re also open to APRNs and PAs with a variety of backgrounds. The important thing is to appreciate that this specialty area is very broad, ranging from addiction to eating disorders to developmental delays and PTSD. The challenges patients face are diverse, and that’s why certification is the number one determinant of candidacy for most psych APRN and PA jobs. So let’s look at what you can do to break into behavioral health:
If you’re a new grad NP who wants to work in psych, the best foundation is having a strong RN background with behavioral/mental health experience. we have found this is highly preferred by hiring managers. But, if you completed one or more of your student clinicals in a mental health specialty area, you can also “get your foot in the door.” I strongly suggest reaching out to contacts you have at that organization to ask for references or leads on possible job opportunities. If these options aren’t available, you may need to work in a primary care environment or another area to get experience in mental health that you can build on. And that’s where your certifications come in. For NPs who want to work in Psych: PMHNP Certification For a Nurse Practitioner who wants to treat psychiatric patients beyond the primary care environment, we advise getting your PMHNP certification. The Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification (PMHNP-BC) is the leading certification required for the psych NP role. Whenever we have a psych job opportunity, this is the certification the employer is looking for. It’s so important to note that without it an NP candidate will not be considered for a psych role, even if they have the requisite work experience. The PMHNP certification is a stand-alone certificate and no supporting NP certifications are required. For more information, see the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) website. For APRNs who want to work in Pediatric Mental Health: PMHS Certification For primary care Nurse Practitioners or Clinical Nurse Specialists, the Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS) certification expands your career opportunities. This is not a stand-alone certificate. It requires that you have a PNP, FNP, or CNS certification first. However, it will help you “provide advanced assessment, evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of common developmental mental and behavioral health problems in children and adolescents.” For more information, see the PNCB website.
For new grad PAs, it may be difficult to land a psych role unless you’ve previously worked in psychology or a related field such as social work. If you don’t have this experience, you may need to work in several PA roles to gain exposure to the mental health field and grow your expertise. For PAs who want to work in Mental Health: Psychiatry CAQ The Psychiatry CAQ is an important certification if you decide to focus on this specialty area. According to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA),Physician assistants seeking the Psychiatry CAQ must have gained at least 2,000 hours of experience (the equivalent of one year of full-time practice) working as a PA in that specialty within six years of the date they attest to NCCPA that the experience requirement has been satisfied. To learn more about the career path for Psych-certified PAs, we suggest looking in the CAQ in Psychiatry as well as connecting with the Association of Physicians in Psychiatry.
We hope this information helps you navigate the important decisions you will be required to make throughout your career. At DirectShifts, we work individually with skilled Advanced Practice Providers, supporting you through your job search and identifying environments that align with your specific career goals. If you’re looking for the right job, sign up today!
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This article was originally published on Melnic. It was recently acquired by DirectShifts.