PMHCNS - Psychiatric and Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist Jobs

What Does A Psychiatric and Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist Do?

A psychiatric and mental health clinical nurse specialist (PMHCNS) is a registered nurse (RN) with advanced education and clinical experience regarding issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, and grief.  Many of these individuals find that they have dual responsibilities.  They practice hands-on treatment of patients but must also exercise leadership of a team for case management and program development, according to the University of Illinois-Chicago .  Within this specialty, nurses can opt to practice a subspecialty like substance use disorders, forensics, child and adolescent mental health, and gerontological-psychiatric care, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) reports.


Find open positions with Psychiatric and Mental Health Clinical Nurses near you.

What Are The Job Roles For A PMHCNS?

  • Assessing adult and child mental health needs

  • Diagnosing conditions

  • Developing and implementing treatment plans

  • Administering psychotherapy

  • Prescribing medication

  • Educating patients and their families

Job Characteristics

  • Work is structured.

  • Case management uses leadership skills.

  • The job requires substantial one-on-one patient contact.

  • This career requires a high degree of independence.

What Education & Certification Is Needed For A PMHCNS?

Becoming a PMHCNS requires considerable classroom and clinical training.  The first step is earning the RN credential from a two- or four-year college or university or via a hospital nursing program.  The second requirement is passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) for licensing eligibility in the state where a nurse plans to work.  A bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) is required for graduate study, although some schools offer a bridge track for nurses who lack one.  Graduate programs include a psychiatric-mental health focus and might be either a specialization within a master’s degree or a certificate awarded to nurses who already have a master of science in nursing (MSN).  A majority of schools with PMHCNS training offer it for nurse practitioners rather than clinical nurse specialists.  Nurses can opt to pursue a doctorate, particularly if they are interested in becoming educators.  The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) provides certification for psychiatric and mental health nurses.

What Are The Degree Requirements For A PMHCNS?

A PMHCNS career requires at least a master’s degree in nursing, according to The Ohio State University .

Among the schools that offer graduate PMHCNS training are these:

What Certification Is Needed For A PMHCNS?

Eligibility for PMHCNS certification requires RN licensure, pertinent clinical experience, and a master’s degree in nursing with specialized mental health training from an accredited nursing program. ANCC offers the board-certified designation of PMHCNS-BC in both the adult and child/adolescent areas.  Certification is good for five years.  Applications for the competency-based exam will be accepted through December 31, 2016, with final testing administered on October 31, 2017.  On November 1, 2017, new renewal requirements will apply.

What Are the CEU Requirements As A PMHCNS?

Each state’s continuing education requirements to maintain licensing are available on our continuing education guide.  PMHCNS-BCs can use continuing education units from approved organizations to fulfill a portion of professional development requirements for certification renewal.

Where Can I Work As A PMHCNS?

  • Research and policy

  • Hospitals and mental health facilities

  • Your own practice

  • Veteran’s healthcare facilities

  • Outpatient clinics

  • Mental health agencies

See available opportunities with PMHCNS near you.

Vonda J. Sines is a freelance writer based in the Washington, DC area. She specializes in health/medical, career, and pet topics and writes extensively about Crohn's disease. Her work has been published at EverydayHealth, Lifescript,, Yahoo! Health, Catholic Digest, Angie's List Health, and on many more sites.


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