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A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner has Specialized Skills and Duties for their Profession

Career News August 19, 2013

To assess the mental needs of individuals and families, a psychiatric nurse practitioner requires special skills to fulfill the various job duties. These specialized nurse practitioners must evaluate a patient’s mental health, form a plan of treatment, and implement the treatment which may involve psychotherapy and prescribed medications.

Job duties for this profession can be varied depending on where the nurse works, such as large hospitals, small clinics or even phone service lines, according to John Hopkins University. Where a psychiatric nurse practitioner works and their job duties will dictate what types of skills they will need for their profession. Below, people can find a list of basic job duties and skills this nursing field requires.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Job Duties

Psychiatric nurse practitioners have job duties that involve assessing mental health issues and prescribing the proper treatment. These job duties encompass the full scope of providing quality health care services to patients.


Assessment of patients involves gathering the required medical history and documents. Focusing on the patient’s mental health issue, the psychiatric nurse practitioner will give a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation, according to American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The nurse practitioner will analyze the information concerning the patient’s current mental health status and take note of any experiences or behavior that may have contributed to the patient’s current mental state, such as a history of violence, trauma, sexual abuse, substance use, or suicidal behaviors.


Once the psychiatric nurse practitioner has evaluated and assessed the patient’s mental health, the specialized nurse practitioner can diagnose the mental health issue from gathered medical findings. The psychiatric nurse practitioner can identify the specific disorder or health problem, and what may be causing the psychiatric disorder.

Implementation of Treatment Plans

Having the proper diagnosis allows the psychiatric nurse practitioner to introduce the right plan of treatment. Job duties involve developing the treatment plan and implementing it with the patient, family or group by conducting psychotherapy or therapeutic sessions. Treatment may also involve prescribing medications. In addition, the psychiatric nurse practitioner manages emergencies with psychiatric patients to determine their health risk to the patient or the community as they decide on an appropriate emergency care. Psychiatric nurse practitioners will also coordinate care between other health professionals and mental health facilities, so the patients continue to receive care.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Skills

Working as a psychiatric nurse practitioner requires these specialized nurse practitioners to have certain skills, so they can fulfill all the listed job duties. Most of the skills will be developed and honed during their years of schooling to obtain a master’s or doctoral degree in the field of psychiatric-mental health nursing, according to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.

Analytical Skills

Analytical skills help the nurse practitioner assess the gathered mental health information and determine the correct treatment and care of the patient. The psychiatric nurse practitioner can also determine if the patient is going through abuse or certain types of disturbing behavior that is contributing to their current state of health. Analytical skills can also help the nurse practitioner determine risk factors for specific disorders.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are essential for the psychiatric nurse practitioner to gather the health history from the patient, speak with family members and groups concerning mental health issues, and give psychotherapy treatment to the patient. The nurse must also communicate effectively with other health professionals concerning the mental state and treatment of patients.

Critical Thinking Skills

Psychiatric nurse practitioners may be called to mental health emergencies where they must determine the level of danger patient poses to themselves or others. Critical thinking skills allow the nurse to evaluate a situation and develop a plan of action and treatment. This skill is especially helpful for nurse practitioners who are in call centers and speaking with people over the phone.

Interpersonal Skills

Since psychotherapy and therapeutic treatment involve a nurse practitioner/patient relationship, the psychiatric nurse practitioner needs to have interpersonal skills, so they can interact with the patient and give treatment while being in control of their own emotional state. Building positive treatment outcomes while maintaining professional boundaries is essential for the psychiatric nurse practitioner to perform his or her duties well in this nursing field.

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