America is Experiencing a Provider Shortage

By: Stuart Porter, NP


America is experiencing an unprecedented shortage of mental health providers, at a time when the need for mental health services is more severe than ever. The shortage is predicted to worsen in the coming years, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reporting an estimated 250,000 fewer mental health providers by the year 2025. Across the country, patients in need of immediate care are forced to wait weeks or even months to schedule an appointment with a mental health professional. With the demand for psychiatric services rising, the use of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners and psychiatrists combined can help to fill the gap. 

What is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner? 

A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse who specializes in psychiatric care. These mental health professionals are trained to provide care to patients struggling with a wide range of complex mental health conditions. To become a PMHNP, the provider must complete their board certification and receive a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing.  

How are PMNHPs different from psychiatrists? 

While PMHNPs and psychiatrists require different training and education requirements, both health professionals offer high-quality care in prescribing, diagnosing, and treating mental illness. Whereas psychiatrists often choose to specialize their practice, PMHNPs focus on holistic care, and they have skills and experience in treating the whole patient. 

In states that allow them full practice, PMHNPs can provide mental health services such as: 

  • Assess and diagnose mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, OCD, and more. 
  • Create treatment plans 
  • Review patients’ medical history 
  • Prescribe medications 
  • Perform physical examinations 
  • Coordinate patient care 
  • Refer patients to other medical or counseling alternatives 
  • Order and read medical tests  

How are PMNHPs helping to lessen the provider shortage? 

The reach of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners continues to expand, allowing them to take on more clinical responsibilities in the treatment of patients. As of August 2021, 24 states and the District of Columbia have permitted PMHNPs to practice independently of psychiatrists.

With a national shortage of mental health professionals, PMHNPs are more than capable of filling this gap. Incorporating them into practice allows psychiatry clinics to quickly meet patient needs, decrease patient wait times, and offer a wealth of valuable experience and high quality, comprehensive care for patients in need.

At Serenity Mental Health Centers, we strive to increase access to mental health services with the use of psychiatrists and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. Our team of board-certified psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners help ease the mental health provider deficit by tailoring treatment plans specific to each patient’s need, providing our patients with immediate care, quick results, and advanced treatment options. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.