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The role of an FNP in mental healthcare

We all need to care for our own mental health and, when necessary, ask for help from others. As part of their comprehensive healthcare role, family nurse practitioners (FNPs) often aid patients with mental health issues.

As an FNP, you will be met regularly by patients who ask for help, do not know they need help, or who may be experiencing a mental health crisis. FNPs cover extensive ground when it comes to this type of care, meaning it’s an extremely rewarding role if you care deeply about helping others through trauma.

But why is becoming an FNP a great career pathway for someone looking to work in mental health? Let’s take a closer look.

What is an FNP?

A family nurse practitioner is a nurse who specializes in the primary care of individuals and families of all ages. FNPs can work in private clinics, hospitals, community health centers, and more. They do everything from providing routine check-ups to families to managing chronic illnesses in certain individuals.

FNPs can create treatment plans for their patients, including prescribing medications and educating their patients and their families on the management of their health conditions. FNPs can also provide treatments for certain mental health conditions and illnesses in specific circumstances.

What mental illnesses and conditions can FNPs treat?

Since family nurse practitioners are often the first healthcare professionals patients see, they are trained to detect and even diagnose multiple mental health illnesses and conditions at first contact. However, as FNPs are trained to deal with the overall health of their patients, there are cases in which they are better suited to refer their patients to specialized psychiatrists or psychologists.

Generally speaking, FNPs can handle non-complex mental conditions such as anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), and OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD).

They can help patients by prescribing certain treatments, monitoring the effectiveness of their medication, diagnosing their conditions, and referring their patients to programs or specialists that can better provide for their needs.

What’s more, FNPs regularly deal with other mental illnesses and conditions, such as eating disorders, depression, personality disorders, and even psychotic disorders.

That being said, the regulations change from state to state. Therefore, FNPs need to research and be familiar with the scope of practice in their field in the state in which they work. That will determine what a practitioner can do for each patient and when it is time to refer them to specialists. If the FNP decides to provide their patients with further, advanced mental health care, they can always seek specialized training.

Regardless, it’s recommended that anyone keen to explore this career path considers a post-master’s FNP program, such as that offered by Rockhurst University, to develop the base skills required for the role. Rockhurst’s modules will also explore further specialties graduates can branch out into if they wish. The post-master’s FNP program at Rockhurst University consists of 100% online coursework, giving students the flexibility to manage their studies alongside other commitments.

What are the benefits of working as an FNP in mental health? 

Working as an FNP in mental health is challenging in the best possible way—here are a few reasons why you might want to explore this route as a practitioner.

You’ll work with a diverse community of people

Working as an FNP brings you closer to communities in need. You’ll work with a variety of people from different backgrounds and with varying lifestyles.

This line of healthcare is extremely varied, meaning while you will need to stay on your toes, it’s unlikely you will find workloads stifling. Mental health cases also cover a broad spectrum. That means you’ll be making a difference to many people who would otherwise be struggling alone.

You provide preventative care 

Early detection and prevention can be crucial when it comes to mental health conditions. Educating and intervening can help your patients beyond measure, and you’ll be in a position to support people while they might be in distress or struggling to self-manage.

Preventative care for mental health problems will be varied, but as an FNP, you are pivotal to helping people take back control before it’s too late.

You can choose where you work 

FNPs are extremely versatile—you might find yourself providing mental health support in small community clinics, local hospitals, or community centers. This versatility means you will always be able to find the perfect place to suit your professional goals, and will often have the option to change settings several times throughout your career.

You will always be learning 

To provide the best possible mental health care to your patients, you must stay up-to-date with all the latest research, findings, and treatments available. Therefore, it is a field in which you will always be a professional and a student in a dual role—ideal for voracious learners.

Is working as an FNP in mental health right for you?

As an FNP, you can help people struggling with their mental health in multiple ways. If you’d love to work with varied cases and support communities where mental health support might be lacking, it’s a great career path to explore.

Diagnosing, treating, and supporting patients with mental health concerns is extremely rewarding—many FNPs specialize in this side of healthcare purely to see the changes they can bring to people’s lives. You never truly know what people are going through internally, and mental health FNPs can be there to walk patients through anything they’re struggling with.

FNPs are increasingly sought-after across the US, and with mental health concerns growing among the broader population, it’s safe to expect a healthy variety of opportunities to become available to you once you graduate. Once you master the essential skills in nursing, you’re free to explore different niches and specialties working as an FNP. As mentioned, colleges and universities will help to support you in searching through the diversity of work opportunities that open up to you.

Finally, mental health nursing is always varied, meaning if you’re looking for a role where you’ll be making incredible positive impacts, and where no two days are the same, working in this specialty as an FNP might be a great route to take.

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