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.

Courses*

*Subject to change.

Year one

Advanced Pathophysiology
This course provides students with advanced physiologic and pathophysiologic concepts central to understanding 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.

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

Psychopathology Across the Lifespan I
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.

Advanced Health Assessment
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.

Mental Health Assessment Across the Lifespan
This course provides students with concepts, techniques, and knowledge necessary to conduct accurate mental health evaluations of people across the lifespan. Students learn to collect data guided by the principles of general health screening, psychiatric history, mental status examination, and diagnostic criteria from the DSM-5, therapeutic interviewing, and comprehensive history taking. A bio-psycho-social-cultural-spiritual framework is used to formulate a case history, determine accurate differential diagnoses, and make a psychiatric diagnosis using the DSM-5 framework. Beginning development of treatment planning is also emphasized.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Practice Across the Lifespan
The goal of this two-term practicum is to provide students 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 diagnosis, 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.

Advanced Pharmacology
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.

Year two

Statistics and Research for Evidence-based Practice Nursing
This course provides theoretical and practical experience in appraisal and application of research evidence into practice. The emphasis is on applying that knowledge to the critique of published research.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Practice Across the Lifespan
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 diagnosis, 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.

Psychopathology Across the Lifespan II
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. The examination integrates genetic and environmental influences to support an understanding of the interpersonal, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes that define and underlie major mental illnesses. Evidence-based treatments are discussed in relation to their impact on behavior, symptoms, neurobiology, and family systems.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Practice Across the Lifespan
The aim of the fall-term, second-year clinical practicum is to promote development of clinical and leadership skills required for advanced professional practice across the lifespan in psychiatric-mental health nursing. Building on first-year clinical skills, students are expected to choose, implement, and evaluate advanced assessment and differential diagnostic reasoning skills, psychotherapeutic (e.g., group, individual, family) techniques, and psychopharmacological interventions with children, adolescents, adults, older adults, and their families in a variety of psychiatric clinical settings. Ethnic, gender, and developmentally appropriate therapeutic, educational, and supportive intervention strategies are implemented for patients across the lifespan. Students are expected to collaborate with other health care providers in the care of their patients. Health promotion and disease prevention strategies are examined and prioritized in relation to promoting mental and physical health with ethnically diverse individuals, groups, and families.

Clinical Psychopharmacology Across the Lifespan
This course covers the principles of psychiatric pharmacotherapy across the lifespan and the role of the advanced practice psychiatric nurse prescriber. It focuses on biological mechanisms of action of psychotropic drugs; common side effects and adverse reactions; safety issues in prescribing psychotropic medications; and alterations needed in using these agents in specialty populations. The neurobiological components important in understanding symptom etiology and treatment are incorporated to select the most efficacious pharmacologic treatment of psychiatric disorders. Pharmacological history, differential diagnoses, and symptoms targeted for pharmacological activity are incorporated as integral components of prescriptive practice.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Practice Across the Lifespan
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 diagnosis, 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.

Applied Psychopharmacology Across the Lifespan
This elective course builds on Clinical Psychopharmacology Across the Lifespan and is designed to facilitate student expertise and confidence in prescribing the major categories of psychiatric medications to patients across the lifespan. The course is divided into eight major topic areas: antipsychotic, antidepressant, anti-anxiety, mood-stabilizing, hypnotic, stimulant, cognitive enhancement, and substance use treatment medications used in the treatment of psychiatric disorders across the lifespan. The concepts of sleep disruption, personality function, and pain management are integrated into each topic area.

Clinical Outcome Management in Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing
The provision of mental health services is determined by many factors including policy, public demand, research evidence, ideas among general practitioners and mental health professionals, and the financial pressures under which purchasers and providers of services work. These groups often have widely disparate views about the nature of mental disorders and their most appropriate interventions. In providing services to individuals, families, groups, systems, and organizations, the advanced practice psychiatric nurse functions as clinician, consultant, leader, educator, and researcher in the analysis of critical issues important to decision-making and intervention. The assumption underlying the course is that all advanced practice mental health services should be fundamentally theoretical and evidence-based. In this course students define clinical problems and system implications, use technology to identify clinical and research evidence, and critically analyze the evidence. Based on this analysis they devise and present realistic plans for intervention in the clinical setting and write an evidence-based review paper summarizing the results.

Year three

Therapeutic Modalities
This course provides an overview of the major schools of personality theory and psychological development, and the individual psychotherapy treatment modalities that were developed from them. Students deepen and expand their knowledge of fundamental elements in developing and maintaining therapeutic relationships with clients in mental health settings. The student conceptualizes personality characteristics, behavior, and defensive structure in order to better understand the dynamics of the patient and the therapeutic relationship.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Practice Across the Lifespan
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 diagnosis, 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.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Practice Across the Lifespan
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 diagnosis, 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.

Transitions to Professional Practice
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 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.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Practice Across the Lifespan
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 diagnosis, 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 46 percent by 2031, 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.

1 American Association of Medical Colleges, 2022

2 Mental Health America, 2022

3 Merritt Hawkins, 2021