FNP vs. PMHNP: Which Nurse Practitioner Program is Right for You?
As the national health care landscape undergoes numerous complex changes, the role of nurse practitioners has generated meaningful discussion and priority attention.
By delivering expert holistic care to patients, NPs may specialize in various areas. Two nurse practitioner specialties in areas of increasing need are family primary care and psychiatric mental health. This blog reviews the broad need for nurse practitioners across the field and compares the two professional pathways of FNP vs. PMHNP.
What are the Current Needs for Nurse Practitioners?
With a projected growth rate of 46 percent from 2021 to 2031, nurse practitioner now tops the list of fastest-growing occupations, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). U.S. News & World Report rankings place nurse practitioner number one in Best Health Care Jobs and number two overall in 100 Best Jobs.
What factors drive this demand, and how does this relate to highest-need specializations?
The United States faces several critical issues causing dire needs in health care, and nurse practitioners are making vital contributions in shaping how care will be most effectively delivered moving forward. A growing body of evidence identifies primary challenges, including:
- Changing Population: Reports from the U.S. Census Bureau describe the country as “an aging nation,” with the median age progressively increasing over the last 20 years. As age brings an array of complex health issues, the need for a steady increase of providers grows.
- Mental Health Awareness: The federal Healthy People 2030 initiative estimates that more than half of individuals nationally will be diagnosed with mental health conditions during their lifetime. The research further identifies an extensive list of connections between mental and physical health and calls for interventions in screening and treatment.
- Provider Shortages: Pointing to the most recent National Nursing Workforce Survey results, a Nursing Fact Sheet from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing concludes that demand for advanced practice nurses “far outstrips the supply.” Workforce studies from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) concur, noting that APRNs will be crucial in making up for physician shortages.
What Are the Differences in FNP and PMHNP Practice?
Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) are two NP roles critical in addressing the health care issues discussed above. Both FNPs and PMHNPs are advanced practice registered nurses who provide patient-centered assessment, diagnosis and treatment across the lifespan. Both specialties excel in whole-person care, including health education and collaboration.
A family nurse practitioner provides primary care, while a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner focuses on mental health and substance abuse. A current Fact Sheet from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) shows that approximately 70 percent of NPs are certified in family care and approximately five percent in psychiatric/mental health. Let’s take a closer look at some of the differences between FNP vs. PMHNP.
- FNP: Primary care practices, physicians’ offices, clinics, home health and hospitals.
- PMHNP: Private practice, mental health/addictions clinics and psychiatric hospitals.
- FNP: Develop and manage primary care plans, perform physical exams, order tests and prescribe medications and therapies for acute and chronic illness.
- PMHNP: Evaluate and diagnose mental health conditions and addictions, provide therapy and prescribe psychiatric medications.
- FNP: Physical assessments, diagnostic test selection and evaluation, pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic treatment.
- PMHNP: Clinical interviewing, mental health and substance use screening and diagnosis, medication management, psychotherapy.
According to BLS data, the national median salary for all nurse practitioners is $120,680. Actual salaries vary by category of employer, geographic area, and specialization.
- Average range for FNP specialization, as reported by popular job sites:
- Salary.com: $116,880
- Indeed: $143,351
- Average range for PMHNP specialization, as reported by popular job sites:
- Salary.com: $114,288
- Indeed: $139,546
How Do Educational Requirements Compare for FNP vs. PMHNP?
For BSN-prepared or MSN-prepared nurses, becoming a nurse practitioner is a common pathway for career advancement. All nurse practitioner roles require a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Licensure as a nurse practitioner also requires certification in your area of specialization. MSN, DNP and post-master’s certificate programs prepare you for certification exams.
Marymount University offers a range of nurse practitioner programs to fit your current educational credentials and specialization interest. Coursework is 100 percent online with on-campus residencies in the area of Washington, D.C.
Family Nurse Practitioner Programs
Marymount’s FNP programs emphasize ethics and evidence-informed care, preparing you as a compassionate primary care provider and values-based nurse leader.
Online MSN-FNP and Post-Master’s FNP Certificate
The Master of Science in Nursing — Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP) program is designed for registered nurses with a BSN degree and at least one year of full-time practice. Courses total 45 credit hours and cover population health, care delivery and leadership.
For MSN-prepared RNs, the Post-Master’s Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate equips you for practice as an FNP in as little as 20 months. Coursework totals 30 credit hours and includes content such as introduction to family primary care, advanced pharmacology and data analysis.
Both the MSN-FNP and Post-Master’s FNP Certificate equip graduates to deliver advanced care for diverse populations, lead interprofessional collaboration and design clinical strategies to promote health.
BSN-prepared RNs with one year of full-time practice may also pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice — Family Nurse Practitioner (DNP-FNP), the highest level of education in the nursing field. Nurses who have completed DNP degrees are equipped as leaders to play a larger role in primary care and quality improvement in health care.
Marymount’s DNP-FNP program includes 63–70 credit hours with courses covering areas such as advanced health assessment, innovative models of care delivery, epidemiology and leadership. Professional practice outcomes include developing new delivery approaches, directing evidence-based care and advocating for health policy.
For more details on FNP programs, see “How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner.”
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs
Marymount’s PMHNP programs offer evidence-based approaches, preparing you as a compassionate and ethical provider specializing in psychiatric and mental health.
Online MSN-PMHNP and Post-Master’s PMHNP Certificate
The Master of Science in Nursing — Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (MSN-PMHNP) program is for registered nurses with a BSN degree and at least one year of full-time practice. Coursework totals 48 credit hours, which can be completed part-time in just over two years.
For MSN-prepared nurses, the Post-Master's PMHNP Certificate covers content in evidence-based advanced practice, research and advanced pharmacology. At the completion of either program, graduates are equipped to provide advanced care for diverse populations, integrate evidence-based practice and design preventative strategies.
Online BSN-DNP PMHNP
BSN-prepared RNs with one year of full-time practice may also pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice — Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (BSN-DNP PMHNP), the highest level of education in the nursing field.
Nurses specializing in psychiatric mental health who have completed DNP degrees often choose to pursue leadership roles. These nurse leaders design methods and innovative models for evidence-based practice and advance the field of nursing.
For more details on PMHNP programs, see “How to Become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.”
Are You Ready for the Next Step in Your Nursing Career?
To explore your options as an FNP or PMHNP student at Marymount, contact one of our student advisors to discover which pathway is best for you.