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Why APRNs and PAs Should Become Psych-Certified

Posted on May 25, 2018   |   by   |   Credentialing, Job Seekers, Professional Development

There are great job opportunities for APRNs and PAs in the field of mental health. Thinking about making the leap into this fascinating career? Here’s how.

Last week, I explained why you should consider a career in psych.  One of these reasons 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:

Psych Career Guidance for Nurse Practitioners

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.

Psych Career Advice for Physician Assistants

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 Can Help You Find Your Dream Job

I hope this information helps you navigate the important decisions you will be required to make throughout your career. If you have questions or would like to discuss your options, feel free to send me an email at jill@melnic.com to schedule a time to talk.

At Melnic, 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, complete your free Melnic Profile today!

This Week’s Top Mental Health Jobs for APRNs and PAs

Our Melnic jobs board has Mental Health positions at some of the country’s leading hospitals. If you are considering a change, take a look at some of these great job openings!

  • Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Centerin Ohio has a role for a Pediatric Psych Nurse Practitioner to work with children from infancy to age 18 in an inpatient and outpatient capacity. This job is open to new grads with psych experience.
  • In Hershey, Pennsylvania, Penn State Medical Centeris looking for a Psych Nurse Practitioner to provide evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment for adult patients with substance abuse disorders.
  • Penn State also has a part-time Family Nurse Practitioner opportunity to work with children, adolescents, and young adults with eating disorders and other related health issues.
  • In Pikesville, Maryland, a recovery centerhas an opening for a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and for a Family Nurse Practitioner to provide professional counseling services for children, teens, and adults with mental health issues or who are struggling with substance abuse. These are hourly contractor positions, offering a flexible schedule of between 20 and 40 hours per week.

Review our list of Mental Health jobs, then contact us today!

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