Psychiatric-Mental Health

Psychiatric nursing had long been a part of the undergraduate curriculum of the School of Nursing. As the school began planning for additional graduate offerings, the Psychiatric/Mental Health (P/MH) clinical nurse specialty was the first masters option. It was offered through the Graduate School in 1962 and remained there until it was superseded by the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program in 2009. Since 1996 the program has been under the leadership of Associate Professor Merrie Kaas.

In line with national trends, the Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse clinical nurse specialist (CNS) program officially became a nurse practitioner offering in 2009. Although the CNS curriculum prepared graduates for roles almost identical to that of the nurse practitioner, the decision was made to transition to a Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program. In 2008 a collaborative agreement of most of the major nursing organizations created the Consensus Model for APRN Regulation: Licensure, Accreditation, Certification & Education (APRN Consensus Model, 2008). As a result, the American Nurses Credentialing Center determined that the last application for the CNS certifying exam would be accepted on December 31, 2014.

Graduates of the DNP program prepares students for independent clinical practice to treat psychiatric disorders and mental health problems of people across the lifespan. Students learn to diagnose disorders and provide holistic treatment and lifestyle management including pharmacological interventions, complementary and alternative therapies, and individual, group and family psychotherapies that promote mental health and reduce disability. The Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialty utilizes an integrative mental health framework for teaching patient care and provider self-care..

Upon graduation, students are eligible to take the certifying exam through the American Nurses Credentialing Center to become certified as a Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.


APRN Consensus Model for APRN Regulation: Licensure, Accreditation, Certification & Education (APRN Consensus Model). (2008).

APRN Consensus Model

Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner DNP Specialty

Prepared by Sandra Edwardson, 2013