Master of Science in Nursing Program Page

Master of Science in
Nursing (MSN),
Psychiatric-Mental Health
Nurse Practitioner
(PMHNP)- Lifespan

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230K+ Alumni Worldwide


The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program is designed for baccalaureate-prepared nurses (BSN), and is currently accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). In keeping with graduate education standards for advanced practice nursing delineated by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in the Essentials of Master’s Education for Advanced Practice Nurses, the curriculum and instruction prepare you to assume a leadership role in your particular specialization. You’ll learn and exercise advanced practice nursing skills with the goal of providing and organizing better healthcare delivery.

The Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner – Lifespan (PMHNP) specialization prepares nursing professionals for advanced practice roles in providing primary mental healthcare to individuals, groups, and populations across a lifespan. As an independent member of the healthcare team, and in partnership with patients and their families, PMHNPs provide a variety of evidence-based services and therapies. They assess, diagnose, and plan care for complex psychiatric and concomitant medical issues, including the prescription and management of psychopharmacologic agents.

Program graduates are eligible to sit for the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Lifespan competency-based examination.

Admission Requirements

The following candidates are eligible for admission into the MSN program:

  • Those who hold a BSN degree from a nursing program that meets one of these criteria: 1) A nationally accredited nursing program

2) A regionally accredited university/school that meets NU requirements for graduate study listed in the general catalog under “Academic Information for Graduate Degrees and Credentials”

  • Those currently enrolled in the final course of their RN-BSN program and meet NU requirements for graduate study listed in the general catalog under “Academic Information for Graduate Degrees and Credentials,” including “Admission in the Term Prior to Bachelor’s Degree Completion”

All MSN candidates must:

  • Provide proof of current, active, and unencumbered RN license in their state of employment and/or residence
  • Have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Candidates with a GPA of 2.5 to 2.99 will be considered by the MSN admission committee on a case-by-case basis
  • Complete the NU graduate admission application
  • Submit the MSN application packet

Candidates who graduated from a BSN program other than NU must:

  • Provide an official transcript from each college or university attended to the registrar’s office.
  • Provide two professional recommendations on approved forms, preferably from individuals who hold graduate or doctoral degrees.

Prior to starting specialization courses, all candidates must:

  • Provide evidence of current, active professional liability and malpractice insurance coverage throughout the program.
  • Provide evidence of specified immunizations, a recent physical examination report, a clear drug screen and background check, and current BLS certification.

Additional Program Information

  1. Candidates are required to meet with an admission advisor to review the process for applying to and acceptance into the Nursing program. Topics for review include: program of study, schedule of courses, and requirements for progression in the program. Note: prospective students should review the MSN and post-graduate certificate packet before submitting an application.
  1. Students should be proficient in operating a personal computer, including: demonstrated competency in standard computer operating systems and electronic filing systems, basic keyboarding skills, organizing and sorting electronic documents, demonstrated knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel, and other standard computer applications, and familiarity with internet browsers and standard email systems.
  1. The MSN program is an online course of study with a mandatory onsite component. All accepted applicants must attend a virtual online program orientation. In addition, students in the FNP and PMHNP specializations are required to attend three or four one-day objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) either virtually or at an NU campus. FNP and PMHNP practicum courses are offered as immersion experiences conducted in person at faculty-approved, instructor-led clinical settings. FNP and PMHNP specializations carry additional fees. See the “Tuition and Fees” section of the general catalog for course fees.
  1. Students who request a change in specialization after having been admitted to a prior specialization must resubmit an application packet that includes a new goal statement and a completed recommendation form addressing the new specialization area. A new resume is not required. All prerequisites must be met prior to admissions into the new specialization. The new application will be resubmitted via the graduate Nursing e-form application in SOAR by the admission counselor.
  1. Students who withdraw from the program or withdraw their application prior to beginning the program will not need to reapply if the date of initial application occurred within one year of reapplication. Students requesting to be readmitted after one year of initial application for admissions will need to resubmit a new application packet that includes proof of drug screening, background check, immunizations, and a physical examination. Reapplication does not guarantee acceptance to the program or provide an advantage relative to other applicants.

This program is not available in all 50 States. Please see licensure website or consult an enrollment advisor for up-to date information.

Course Details

Foundation Courses

For the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) specialization, you must complete six foundation courses, three specialization preparation courses, and nine specialization courses.

Course Name

This course explores the role of the advanced practice nurse within a changing healthcare environment. Coursework focuses on role theory and role development in advanced practice. You’ll learn skills applicable for both independent practice and collaboration within multidisciplinary professional and organizational frameworks.

This course develops critical thinking skills to help advance nursing knowledge. Instruction focuses on theory development, analysis, and application of advanced nursing practice in diverse settings. You’ll explore the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of nursing practice and develop analysis skills regarding nursing and related theories.

An exploration of statistical concepts and methods as applied to health-related fields. Topics of focus include: descriptive and inferential statistics for health research; confidence interval hypotheses, testing, construction, and interpretation; parametric and nonparametric techniques; regression and multiple regression; analysis of covariance, multivariate ANOVA, and related multivariate analyses. Computer software will be used to illustrate statistical procedures.

A survey of knowledge and skills needed to promote health, shape the healthcare delivery system, and advance values through policy processes and advocacy. This course examines the organizational and financial intricacies of healthcare delivery systems, and the effect of health policies on care delivery.

An exploration of types and quality of evidence used to support nursing practice. This course studies research designs, measurement tools, and other methods for safely applying evidence to the development of improved care and care systems. As part of the coursework, you’ll identify an evidence-based scholarly question pertinent to advanced practice nursing.

This course identifies and develops the skills needed by leaders in today’s healthcare arena. You’ll employ the concept of leadership to the four key domains of advanced practice: clinical practice environments, the nursing profession, at the systems level, and in the health policy arena.

Preparation Courses for the PMHNP Specialization

In preparation for the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) specialization, you must complete the following three courses.

Course Name

This is the first of two courses designed to provide nurse practitioners with advanced knowledge on pharmacological agents used in managing a variety of common clinical situations. Subject matter includes pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and pharmacotherapeutics. Standardized procedures will be covered, and ethical and legal issues are reviewed. This instruction is not designed to supersede or replace dosage and treatment protocols established within a nurse practitioner’s clinical setting.

This course is designed to expand your knowledge base of current health patterns across a lifespan. Faculty and instruction will assist you in acquiring advanced skills in collecting subjective data, performing an adult physical, and carrying out a mental status examination. You’ll then interpret the data acquired through assessment and diagnostic studies.

A study of pathophysiological principles and concepts essential for performing advanced clinical assessments, differential diagnoses, and therapeutic decision-making. Coursework will examine the disordered physiology and clinical consequences of common disease processes. Through seminars, exercises, and case studies, you’ll analyze biophysical rationales to recognize the pathophysiologic basis for clinical findings.

* Preparation courses for the PMHNP specialization may be taken concurrently with the six MSN foundation courses.

Specialization Courses

All preparation courses for the FNP specialization must be completed with a passing grade before beginning any specialization courses.

Course Name

This course provides a knowledge base for applying, analyzing, and evaluating the culturally competent provision of patient-centered care. Instruction will address diversity in global healthcare delivery systems while exploring various models and theories for guiding the development of culturally competent nursing.

An examination of advanced concepts in pharmacogenomics, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics for targeted symptoms in the management of various psychiatric disorders. Coursework includes symptom management for various populations, patient adherence methods, and risk-mitigation strategies for clinical problems in primary mental health settings. You’ll also study the use of psychopharmacologic agents with medical comorbidities.

An exploration of evidence-based assessment, diagnosis and treatment/management approaches to various psychiatric symptoms and disorders. This course analyzes the concepts of neurophysiology and neuropathophysiology in adult/aging adults with psychiatric disorders. You’ll examine the professional, policy, and practice issues influencing the nurse practitioner’s role as a mental health provider for adult/aging adults with psychiatric disorders.

A PMHNP practicum experience with adults/aging adults in mental health care settings. This course teaches you to accurately assess, plan, intervene, and evaluate the care of adults/aging adults with mental illness. You’ll learn to perform the advanced practice role of manager, clinician, educator, researcher, and consultant in the process of providing mental health services. Coursework requires 240 clinical hours of preceptored/field experience. Grading is S/U only.

An examination of evidence-based biopsychosocial assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of children and adolescents with mental illness and/or developmental disorders. This course studies the professional, policy, and practice issues influencing the nurse practitioner’s role as a mental health provider to children and adolescents.

A PMHNP practicum experience with children and adolescents in mental health care settings. This course teaches you to accurately assess, plan, intervene, and evaluate the care of children and adolescents with developmental, behavioral, or psychiatric disorders. You’ll learn to perform the advanced practice role of manager, clinician, educator, researcher, and consultant in the process of providing mental health services. Coursework requires 180 clinical hours of preceptored/field experience. Grading is S/U only.

A comprehensive review of psychotherapy principles and treatment approaches commonly used in primary mental health care services. This course explores methods for developing effective therapeutic relationships with an emphasis on therapeutic communication. You’ll analyze individual, group, and family psychotherapy across a lifespan. This course is taken concurrently with MNP 688C.

This course applies the theories and principles of psychotherapy learned in MNP 688A. You’ll learn to gather evidence as you employ various theories on behavior patterns, belief systems, and therapeutic relationship strategies. The experience provides invaluable instruction in assessing patient motivation and readiness for treatment, reducing emotional stress, facilitating cognitive and behavior change, and fostering growth. Coursework requires 120 clinical hours of preceptored/field experience. This course is taken concurrently with MNP 688A. Grading is S/U only.

This capstone course allows you to demonstrate the integrated knowledge from core, core clinical, and clinical coursework in the Master of Science in Nursing, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program. You’ll compile and interpret information from your collective PMHNP studies into a scholarly paper. In addition, you’ll successfully pass an exam designed to mirror the national board certification examination for PMHNPs.

Learning Outcomes

Students earning the Master of Science in Nursing degree with a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialization will learn to:

  • Synthesize theoretical and empirical knowledge derived from the physical and behavioral sciences and humanities as a basis for advanced clinical nursing practice.
  • Devise evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention strategies at the patient, family, organizational, community, and population levels to improve healthcare outcomes.
  • Utilize current technologies to deliver, enhance, and document care across multiple settings to achieve optimal outcomes.
  • Apply organizational and systems leadership to current healthcare issues for the promotion of quality, effective, and safe patient care, including an emphasis on ethical and critical decision making, effective working relationships, and a systems-perspective approach.
  • Model collaboration and coordination with interprofessional teams in healthcare systems to deliver care to complex, multi-need patients, families, and communities.
  • Synthesize organizational, client-centered, and culturally appropriate concepts in the planning, delivery, management, and evaluation of evidence-based behavioral healthcare and services to individuals, families, and identified populations.
Program Disclosure

Successful completion and attainment of National University degrees do not lead to automatic or immediate licensure, employment, or certification in any state/country. The University cannot guarantee that any professional organization or business will accept a graduate’s application to sit for any certification, licensure, or related exam for the purpose of professional certification.

Program availability varies by state. Many disciplines, professions, and jobs require disclosure of an individual’s criminal history, and a variety of states require background checks to apply to, or be eligible for, certain certificates, registrations, and licenses. Existence of a criminal history may also subject an individual to denial of an initial application for a certificate, registration, or license and/or result in the revocation or suspension of an existing certificate, registration, or license. Requirements can vary by state, occupation, and/or licensing authority.

NU graduates will be subject to additional requirements on a program, certification/licensure, employment, and state-by-state basis that can include one or more of the following items: internships, practicum experience, additional coursework, exams, tests, drug testing, earning an additional degree, and/or other training/education requirements.

All prospective students are advised to review employment, certification, and/or licensure requirements in their state, and to contact the certification/licensing body of the state and/or country where they intend to obtain certification/licensure to verify that these courses/programs qualify in that state/country, prior to enrolling. Prospective students are also advised to regularly review the state’s/country’s policies and procedures relating to certification/licensure, as those policies are subject to change.

National University degrees do not guarantee employment or salary of any kind. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to review desired job positions to review degrees, education, and/or training required to apply for desired positions. Prospective students should monitor these positions as requirements, salary, and other relevant factors can change over time.