A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) vs a family nurse practitioner (FNP) are two types of certified and licensed medical providers. Both hold specific roles in their positions. Though both may provide advanced practice skills in healthcare, what they do, and what they treat often ranges widely.

What is the Difference Between a Psychiatric Nurse practitioner vs Family Nurse Practitioner?

A psychiatric nurse practitioner vs family nurse practitioner typically have extensive education and training. Both may have training to assess mental health disorders. The difference may come down to how much advanced training they have. An FNP typically provides medical services in a health practice setting. A PMHNP typically provides more concentrated care in psychiatry. This may allow them to make more in-depth assessments of people who have mental health disorders.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner vs Family Nurse Practitioner

Both psychiatric nurse practitioner (also referred to as a PMHNP) vs family nurse practitioner are capable of providing mental disorder assessments. PMHNPs are typically able to provide more in-depth assessments and treatment plans in the area of mental health.

What is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

A PNP may be able to provide people with insight into their mental health disorders. Their goal is typically to gather information, diagnosis, and create a treatment plan for their patients. This may include conditions like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It may also include substance abuse treatment.

These professionals may focus in the treatment of mental health conditions. They tend to have more skill and ability to provide mental health services to their patients. This includes providing psychotherapy. For this reason, many may work in specific psychiatry fields. They may work in either inpatient treatment programs or outpatient treatment programs.

What Education and Certifications do PNPs need?

This is a master’s level program which requires the minimum of a BSN in order to go forward with it. This program is usually two years in length and may require not only classwork but practical applications as well. In certain cases, the costs may be able to be covered through the use of scholarships, grants, or through sponsorships. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. If not then the cost would be based on the school attended and what the current rate of tuition is for that school.

Courses for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

1st course Quantitative Methods

Advanced Pharmacology

This course may cover subjects such as pharmacogenomics and pharmacodynamics. The class may also look at common drug classes and that are prescribed by APNs. The class may also look at what creates successful therapy. Some of these factors include safety, cost and effectiveness.

2nd course Economics for Finance

Psychotherapy with Individuals

This course typically aims to focus on the use of evidence-based methods in order to achieve success in the field. This class may teach a number of therapy techniques that cover multiple issues. The primary focus is these types of therapies may work in an individual setting.

3rd Course Fixed Income

Psychotherapy with Groups and Families

This course typically aims to get into how group and family therapy could be effective methods of treatment. The course aims to focus on the benefits of family treatment. The ability to see how the group dynamic is effective as a method of treatment.

4th Course Derivatives

Advanced Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning

This course typically aims to focus on assessing patients. Students may cover reasoning, communication, and how to assess a patient physically. The topic of preventative health may be covered as well as how to apply it to risk evaluation. How to do sutures, perform EKG’s and interpretation of x-rays.

Skills gained in this program:

  • Time Management – Having the ability to plan and schedule for success could be imperative. Learning how to make sure you have the time and ability to meet the needs of all of your patients in the time allotted may allow for you and your patients to stay on schedule and to meet the needs of as many people as possible.
  • Communication – The ability to communicate not only with patients but colleagues may be imperative in this field. To be able to listen and draw conclusions as well as provide feedback may be integral parts of this profession. Being able to communicate in all forms might be necessary for success.
  • Problem Solving – Being able to solve problems and come up with decisions in a multitude of situations may be essential in this field. The ability to look at and assess situations and to draw conclusions may be a skill that needs acquiring.
  • Work Independently – As a psychiatric nurse practitioner working independently may be a key skill you may need to master. There are many times when practicing in this field the need may arise to work one on one with patients and to make evaluations and decisions independently.

Concentrations in an PNP Program

It may be possible for a PNP to concentrate. The concentrations taken may be in some specific field or for a specific group of people. For example, some may focus in providing care for a specific group of the population. This may be in pediatrics or geriatric areas. Some people may wish to enter a nurse practitioner program with the goal of focusing just on substance abuse for patient care.

Some may be able to concentrate their degree on medication management. Healthcare professionals with psychopharmacology concentrations may be able to prescribe medications to people in need. Some examples of concentrations include these. However, there may be many others.


  • Pediatric – When working as a pediatric psychiatric nurse practitioner, the goal may be to work in this field with children. This specialty may work with dealing with pre teens and toddlers when looking to assess and solve issues in this area.
  • Family – With a focus on the family aspect of this program the goal may be to practice in an area where working with families and not individuals is the priority. Being able to focus in dealing with family units of all types in order to improve the lives of these people.
  • Psychiatric – This is the general form of this degree where you may be working with multiple people and groups of all types. This may occur in a hospital setting or in a practice while working with a general practitioner.
  • Adult and Gerontology – In this portion of the field, you may be primarily assisting those who are young adults on through senior citizens. The goal is often to provide assistance on all necessary levels for the needs of the people who fall into this age group and class.

Duties and Responsibilities of a PNP

A psychiatric nurse practitioner may have a number of duties associated with their position. These could include the coordination of care, providing assessments, and diagnosing mental health treatments. They may provide mental illness treatment plans. They may also provide one on one treatment through psychotherapy. When working with inpatient individuals, these healthcare professionals may educate their patients about their condition. They may also provide acute care in some settings, such as in a crisis situation.

These advanced practice nurse professionals typically provide patient care. That may include creating treatment plans and then working in therapy in some cases. The career path they select plays a close role in determining the type of work they do on a daily basis. Yet, the main goal in these career paths is to provide mental health care.

Here are some examples:
  • Conduct research – As a psychiatric nurse practitioner one of the duties may include conducting research. This may mean looking at the different test conducted or comparing previous results from previous cases to draw conclusions and solutions.
  • Provide medication and treatment – In this position there may be a need to prescribe and deliver medication and treatment. This may include performing activities in the practice or sending the patient to another office to receive the treatment necessary.
  • Diagnose problems – In order to properly work with patients there may come a time when they might need to be diagnosed. This may require consulting with colleagues or developing a diagnosis on your own. It may also require observing and learning about the patient.
  • Analyze test results – Being able to look over and interpret test results may be imperative in this field. Knowing which tests to have performed as well as knowing what to expect may play a key role in this portion of the duties for this position.
  • Create care plans – Creating a plan of care for the patient may be a big portion of this career. Being able to know what the best course of action to improve the wellness of the patient could be vital to your and their success. Using all of the data, test results, and interaction with the patient may aid in coming up with the best plan.

Salaries and Job Outlook for PNPs

A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner has a annual median wage of $125,900 per year according to 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Currently, overall nurse practitioner jobs number about 323,900 in total. There is a projected growth of 38% for this field between 2022 and 2032, which is much faster than average according to the BLS.

What is an FNP?

An FNP is a professional that has completed a nursing program. These individuals may work to provide primary care to individuals. This is often done in a traditional doctor’s office or medical center. They typically provide care for people of all ages. That often includes from childhood through elderly care. These registered nurses may have advanced training to provide assessment and treatment plans for individuals.

Some may hold a DNP or other type of advanced treatment plan. The main goal of a person working as an FNP may be to provide medical care (not just mental health care) to a person over his or her lifespan. This type of patient care may include some acute care, but generally, they aim to focus on providing care in a doctor’s office.

What Education and Certifications do FNPs need?

An FNP may start their career with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Students may then become a registered nurse (RN). Once they do this, they may be able to enter into a graduate nursing program. The goal may be to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.

Once a student earns an MSN from a school with proper accreditation, they may then apply for certification. National board certification as an FNP may be critical for many career paths. This accreditation may come from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners National Certification Board (AANPCB) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Certification Program. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) may also provide credentialing in the United States. Continuing education may be necessary in some situations.

FNP Courses:

1st course Quantitative Methods

Advanced Pathophysiology

In this course, the students may analyze and apply human responses to pathophysiologic conditions. This may include normal and abnormal responses as well as evaluation. This class may be both practical and hands on.

2nd course Economics for Finance

Advanced Physical Assessment

In this course, the student may increase their skills in performing a health assessment. The student may also develop techniques that use medical history and exam. They may use these and other tools to draw conclusions and create courses of action.

3rd Course Fixed Income

Advanced Pharmacology Fundamentals

Here students may study commonly used prescription drugs. This course aims to cover the analysis and applications of these drugs as well expanding overall knowledge of pharmacology. The students may broaden their knowledge and understanding of how the drug works and what makes it effective.

4th Course Derivatives

Population Health, Epidemiology, and Statistical Principles

In this course, students may look at population health, statistics, and epidemiology. These principles may be analyzed and evaluated to help making decisions regarding a plan for health. The use of data and statistics may help to aid in the decision making process.

Skills gained in this program:

  • Making Ethical Decisions – Being able to make decisions based on the best interests of the patient. Being aware of the guiding principles of your practice and how to apply them.
  • Critical Thinking – Being able to think critically and use that skill to apply it to the overall course of treatment of patients. Being able to make everyday decisions as well as in the heat of the moment or in a crisis.
  • Effective Communication – Having the ability to talk and listen to staff, patients, and fellow employees typically requires the ability to communicate effectively. Learning to listen as well as provide feedback may be important aspects of an FNP.
  • Attention to Detail – Missing small steps or overlooking small changes could lead to big problems. Make sure to listen to the patient and consider all aspects of why they are there to see you. Being able to draw conclusions because you paid attention to all of the information they provided to you.

Concentrations in an FNP program

As a family nurse practitioner, you may concentrate in one area. This type of advanced practice nursing may be in a specific field that interests you. For example, some may focus on cardiology or in health promotion. Generally, this type of focus includes some level of clinical hours of study. You may wish to choose a master’s degree in an area that includes mental illness. However, many FNPs focus on providing those services within a private practice rather than providing them in an acute care situation. Licensure requirements may change based on the specific field of concentration a person selects.

FNP Concentrations:

  • Dermatology – Some of the skills learned and practiced when concentrating on becoming a dermatology FNP diagnosing and treating of dermatological issues in patients. They may also learn to treat and manage common and complex issues following a diagnosis.
  • Pediatrics – As a pediatric nurse practitioner you may learn a number of skills regarding how to care for children as an FNP. Pediatric primary health may be the main focus, but other areas learned may be chronic illness care and treatment as well as treating adolescents. These may occur either in a practice or a clinic environment.
  • Adult Gerontology – When looking to become an adult gerontology FNP you may learn and master a specific set of skills. Skills that you may learn are the treating of adults and elderly as well as treating of adolescents. Some areas where this specialty is working are internal medicine offices, specialty clinics and rehab centers.

Duties and Responsibilities in an FNP

A family nurse practitioner may have a number of duties and responsibilities. They may coordinate and or provide care. Their care often includes interviewing, assessing, and creating treatment plans for patients. Many work to provide support for routine physicals. Others may assess medical conditions and diagnostic tests. They may make diagnoses. They may also create plans of care. They may also follow up with patients. Many times, they may follow patients throughout their lifetime. This may mean providing long-term support for care needs.

Here are some examples:

  • Record patient’s medical histories – This means that they may ask questions and find out the history of the patient medically. This may include family medical history as well as current and past medical problems that the patient has had.
  • Perform physicals – An FNP may perform a traditional annual physical. A simple evaluation to determine the overall health of a patient. These are usually done in a doctor’s office.
  • Diagnose health problems – An FNP may diagnose patients. They may do this by conducting tests and exams as well as going over the symptoms that the patient is experiencing.
  • Provide patients with medications – An FNP may be able to write and administer prescriptions either through a pharmacy or by providing medications in office. These may be simple antibiotics or they may also provide vaccines.
  • Perform diagnostic tests – An FNP has the ability to run and order diagnostic tests for a patient. This could be requesting bloodwork or to have an EKG performed.
  • Create care plans for patients – The FNP may create a course of action or care plan to help in the wellness of a patient. Whether it be prescribing a diet or suggesting therapy to improve strength and motor skills.

Salaries and Job Outlook for an FNP

According to the BLS an FNP may make a median annual salary of $125,900. This job has a growth rate of 38% over the next ten years between 2022 through 2032. An FNP may work in doctor’s offices, nursing and rehab facilities and hospitals.

Side by Side Comparison of Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner vs a Family Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric Nurse PractitionerFamily Nurse Practitioner
EducationA BSN is the first step followed by an MSN with a focus in Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner.A BSN is the first step followed by an MSN with a focus in Family Nurse Practitioner.
Job DutiesTo diagnose and treat mental health disorders. They will also work with substance abuse disorders dealing with psychotherapy.To work with families or to provide treatment much like a general practitioner. May perform tests and general evaluations among other duties.
SalaryAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the 2021 median annual salary of a nurse practitioner is $123,780.According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the 2021 median annual salary of a nurse practitioner is $123,780.
Common Practice SettingsClinics, medical hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, prisons and homeless sheltersPhysician’s offices, medical practices, medical hospitals, nursing and rehab facilities
Professional OrganizationsAmerican Psychiatric Nurses Association, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Doctors of Nursing PracticeAmerican Academy of Nurses, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Doctors of Nursing Practice

Choosing the Perfect Program for You

Choosing the perfect MSN program for you is important. It may shape the path of the career you have for years to come. Both the FNP and the PNP programs may be valuable. Many provide a range of services to people in need. To determine which is for you, consider a few things.

What type of environment do you want to work in during your career? FNP work, most often, in a medical office. They work with people over long periods of time. Often, they get to know their patients well. A PNP may work in an office setting as well. Some may work in an outpatient or inpatient treatment program. They may work in some acute services.

The next thing you may want to think about is what you wish to help people with on a daily basis. A PNP typically focuses his or her time on mental health care. Their master’s degree may be specifically in areas of psychopharmacology and psychotherapy. They may be board certified to provide these services. FNP providers typically provide some mental health care. However, they also provide medical care. This provides a wider range of types of care that you may provide to individuals.

In terms of education, both career paths require obtaining a master’s degree. That means completing a bachelor’s degree first (or choosing another path). This often requires a total of six years of education and credits. During that time, you may concentrate. You may choose to study in a specific area of focus. That may mean completing clinical hours in that program.

Both career paths are typically valuable to the community. In some cases, you may wish to learn more about the available positions in your community. Determine what type of work they do. You may also wish to explore career options in other areas of nursing for even more concentration.

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