Online Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program curriculum 

Prepare for a career as an advanced practice mental health provider through the online Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program. Explore the key program learning objectives below.

What will you learn in the online PMHNP program?  

Nearly 50 million people in the United States report experiencing mental health challenges, but too often, finding care can be difficult1. And this crisis of unmet care is expected to continue growing, as the U.S. is predicted to face a shortage of at least 14,000 psychiatrists in the next few years2.

The need for skilled mental health practitioners is clear, and Yale School of Nursing prepares aspiring nurse practitioners to answer the call. 

The online PMHNP specialty in the Master of Science in Nursing program equips graduates with the human-forward perspective and clinical competencies essential to assess, diagnose, and treat mental health patients across the lifespan. 

Throughout the three-year online master’s degree, PMHNP students complete a specialized course of study that emphasizes whole health and bridges the gap between physical and mental health care. Students learn to screen for mental health and substance use disorders, diagnose, prescribe medications, perform mental health assessments, educate patients, and coordinate the delivery of care across health care teams. 

Advanced nursing students also develop and reinforce soft skills, including communication, time management, leadership, and collaboration through in-person and asynchronous coursework.

Online PMHNP curriculum overview  

The Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner curriculum includes academic and clinical training to prepare students for advanced practice in psychiatric mental health nursing. Each online PMHNP course and clinical experience challenges students to think critically as they navigate the complex care for individuals with mental health needs.

Students will have three mandatory in-person immersions at YSN on Yale’s West Campus (one per year). During immersions, students will demonstrate their skills in simulated environments and receive intensive instruction and feedback from faculty. The immersions will last approximately four days, including weekends. Travel, hotel, and food costs are the student’s responsibility.

Clinical placement overview

Our placement philosophy at Yale School of Nursing centers around the need for increased access to quality mental health care across all regions and demographics. We strive to train well-rounded providers with the competencies to work in a variety of psychiatric settings and with patients of all age groups. We believe that through clinical experiences, in collaboration with our community partners, we can positively contribute to the education of future leaders in a vital, in-demand health profession.

  • Clinical placement begins in term 5 of the program
    802.5 hours of clinical hours in a clinic setting (within 90 miles of your address)
  • 120 Clinical seminar hours: Meet 1-2 hours a week per term
  • Minimum of 2 placements:
    • Terms 5-7: Lifespan placement (3 populations: under 18, 18-65, over 65)
    • Terms 8-9: If possible, within your preferred population
    • You are expected to be at your clinical site for the duration of your placement (15 weeks) regardless of completed clinical hours

Synchronous class times

Explore a term-by-term breakdown of what you will learn during the live sessions with your peers and preceptors. Class times may range from 3-9 pm ET.

Year one


Year two


Year three


Courses*

*Pending final approval and subject to change.

Year one

Term one

3 credits

This course provides students with advanced physiologic and pathophysiologic concepts central to understanding the maintenance of health and the prevention and management of disease across the lifespan. Content on cellular function, genetics, immunology, inflammation, infection, and stress and adaptation provides the framework on which further specialty content knowledge is built.

2 credits

This course is a synthesis and application of the process of health promotion, public health, community organization, and epidemiological principles. Emphasis is on the prevention of disease, health maintenance, health promotion, and care of the sick within households, families, groups, and communities across the lifespan.

Term two

3 credits

This course is designed to provide students with the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to conduct a comprehensive, focused health history and physical examination and includes core content regarding assessment of all human systems, advanced assessment techniques, concepts, and approaches. Emphasis is on the assessment of physical, psychosocial, spiritual, and cultural dimensions of health, as well as factors that influence behavioral responses to health and illness. Normal/abnormal variations in physical exam findings and differential diagnoses will be presented. Content includes assessment of individuals of diverse and special populations, including transgender, LGBTQIA, geriatric, pediatric, and individuals with disabilities.

2 credits

This course is designed for students to build upon their introduction to drug therapy courses. Principles of pharmacology are presented through the study of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. Emphasis is placed on drug categories, mechanisms of action, and side effects. Following initial content on general principles, applied interpretation of some of the most common clinical indications and considerations for prescribing are addressed.

Term three

3 credits

This course provides theoretical and practical experience in the appraisal and application of research evidence into practice. The emphasis is on applying that knowledge to the critique of published research.

3 credits

This course examines the psychopathology and neurobiology of major psychiatric disorders across the lifespan. Essentials of neuroanatomy and neurobiology are examined as they relate to psychiatric symptoms. Disorders selected for examination are those most commonly seen in clinical settings in children, adolescents, adults, and older adults, including anxiety; depression; and behavioral, personality, and cognitive disorders (ADHD, Alzheimer’s). The public health importance, epidemiology, risk factors, and neuroscience are reviewed.

Year two

Term four

2 credits

This is the first course in a series of three courses which examine the theory and practice of psychotherapeutic interventions across the lifespan. This course weaves together comprehensive mental health assessment and communication strategies across the lifespan while developing and sustaining therapeutic alliance. Students will learn to compare therapeutic interventions from major schools of psychotherapy and apply interventions matched to client preferences, symptoms/disease, and context. Students will develop awareness of their own self and to practice critical self-reflection in their delivery of therapeutic interventions.

2 credits

1 credit

This is the first course in a two-course series which focuses on foundational knowledge and skills for PMHNP role development and psychiatric assessment. It introduces the student to self-reflective practice and principles of psychotherapeutic care. Students will learn techniques for establishing and maintaining a therapeutic alliance and conducting psychiatric assessments with individuals across the lifespan. 

Term five

2 credits

3 credits; 105 clinical hours; 30 clinical seminar hours

Term six

2 credits

4 credits; 150 clinical hours; 30 clinical seminar hours

Year three

Term seven

1 credit

2 credits

3.5 credits; 127.5 clinical hours; 30 clinical seminar hours

The goal of this practicum is to provide the student with an opportunity to develop clinical skills with individuals and family across the lifespan. While in psychiatric clinical settings, students apply skills including holistic physical and mental health assessment, formulate differential diagnoses, plan and implement developmentally appropriate psychiatric nursing interventions, and evaluate interventions and outcomes with children, adolescents, adults, older adults, and their families. Emphasis is placed on application of a variety of population-specific assessment skills, and use of differential diagnosis, and a beginning utilization of pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic treatment methods with individuals, groups, and families.

Term eight

1.5 credits

5 credits; 210 clinical hours; 15 clinical seminar hours

The goal of this two-term practicum is to provide the student with an opportunity to develop clinical skills with individuals and family across the lifespan. While in psychiatric clinical settings, students apply skills including holistic physical and mental health assessment, formulate differential diagnoses, plan and implement developmentally appropriate psychiatric nursing interventions, and evaluate interventions and outcomes with children, adolescents, adults, older adults, and their families. Emphasis is placed on application of a variety of population-specific assessment skills, and use of differential diagnosis, and a beginning utilization of pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic treatment methods with individuals, groups, and families.

Term nine

2 credits

Advanced practice nursing occurs in contexts that inevitably influence practice. This course provides students with an integrative experience in applying health policy, organizational, regulatory, safety, quality, and ethical concepts to care. It also provides the opportunity for students to explore the theoretical and practical considerations underlying the roles of advanced practice nurses (leader, educator, researcher, advocate, clinician, and consultant). The course is organized into modules incorporating the following content areas, explored utilizing a case-based approach: Regulation and Scope of Practice; Leadership and Organizational Dynamics; Health Care Access, Coverage, and Finance; Clinical Ethics; and Safety and Quality.

5 credits; 210 clinical hours; 15 clinical seminar hours

The goal of this two-term practicum is to provide the student with an opportunity to develop clinical skills with individuals and family across the lifespan. While in psychiatric clinical settings, students apply skills including holistic physical and mental health assessment, formulate differential diagnoses, plan and implement developmentally appropriate psychiatric nursing interventions, and evaluate interventions and outcomes with children, adolescents, adults, older adults, and their families. Emphasis is placed on application of a variety of population-specific assessment skills, and use of differential diagnosis, and a beginning utilization of pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic treatment methods with individuals, groups, and families.

Frequently asked questions

Students in the online PMHNP master the skills to serve as mental health nurse practitioners for patients of all ages. The online master’s degree program includes human-forward training in mental health assessment, neurobiology, psychopathology, developmental and personality theory, individual, group and family psychotherapy, and psychopharmacology.

PMHNP students also build on the professional skills necessary to succeed in advanced practice nursing roles, including leadership and project management.

Advanced practice mental health nurses, including psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, are in demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of nurse practitioners will grow 38 percent by 2032, and nurse practitioners have become the most recruited providers in health care3. The expanded scope of practice and mental health expertise developed through the online PMHNP specialty prepares Yale graduates to join this growing and in-demand profession.

The YSN online Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialty of the Master of Science in Nursing prepares graduates to sit for the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) PMHNP board certification exam. As of 2021, Yale School of Nursing Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner graduates have a 95 percent first-time and overall pass rate on board certification exams.

Your 802.5 hours of clinical experience are balanced across populations and settings during your second and third year in the program. Accessibility to clinical sites varies from state to state and a means of transportation will be required. There may be instances where students may need to travel to their clinical experience. Clinical practice experiences will take place in a variety of health care settings and systems including, but not limited to: community mental health centers, integrated psychiatric and primary care, acute and long-term care settings, etc.

Students must be located in the United States in order to complete the program and clinical placements.The online PMHNP program is currently not being offered to students residing in New York, Tennessee, or foreign countries.

Students should plan for synchronous class sessions between 3 – 9 p.m. Eastern. Term one class sessions are typically held on Thursdays. Term two class sessions are typically held on Wednesdays, and term three class sessions on Tuesdays. We encourage students to utilize this information proactively to plan for class attendance.

1 American Association of Medical Colleges, 2022

2 Mental Health America, 2022

3 Merritt Hawkins, 2021