Nursing is a versatile profession that offers many options to build your career. There are many variables to consider when choosing a path and committing to it—one of them being demand. This is especially true for nurses who want to advance their careers by becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

Nurse practitioners possess a higher level of autonomy and a larger scope of care than registered nurses. This position also has additional educational requirements and training certifications for qualification. Simply put, becoming a nurse practitioner requires time and resources—something that not all people are willing to give if they feel uncertain about the demands for this particular role.

The fact is, there is currently a high demand for nurse practitioners in the mental health industry. Let’s take a closer look at the factors that have contributed to this demand and clear up any misconceptions about future employment outlook.

Factors That Have Led to High Demand for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

1.    More Accessible Mental Health Care

The biggest factor being looked into is the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA of 2010), making mental health care more accessible for millions of Americans. Since its signing, there has been a significant rise in patients who received quality health care covered by the reform. In the upcoming 2020 presidential elections, many presidential hopefuls have presented new platforms to extend the Affordable Care Act’s health care coverage. Other candidates are also looking to provide more health care options for people under the age of 65. Regardless of who will succeed in the campaign, we can expect an increased demand for health care providers, including psychiatric nurse practitioners.

2.    Mental Health Awareness

Mainstream media also contributed to the rise in demand and future projections for this career. The media’s action of raising awareness about mental health and tackling issues about depression and suicide has contributed to the de-stigmatization of mental illness among the masses. Thanks to these efforts of disseminating content about mental health issues, many people view mental health more seriously and treat it as something that needs to be addressed.

3.    PTSD Treatment for Veterans

Another factor that led to this increase in demand is soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan that need mental health care. Many of these modern-day heroes suffer from the effects of the war, such as PTSD, and require support.

4.    Caring for Aging Baby Boomers

The aging baby boomer populace is another issue that is being taken into consideration for this projected rise. All health care roles are expecting a significant increase in demand within the coming years due to a large number of boomers entering the ages of 50-60. Due to advancements in health care and their active lifestyles, the majority of this generation is expected to live longer. As medical care aims to address all aspects of health, there is an expected growth in mental health services for the elderly, as more and more people are currently placing importance on mental health.

5.    Forecasted Demand

Due to these factors, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 28% increase in the demand for nurse practitioners along with nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives. The employment rate for these jobs is expected to grow to 31% by 2024, notably faster than the average growth rate of other professions.

In preparation for this forecasted demand, many organizations and institutions are currently offering more educational opportunities for this specialty. From traditional academic education to online programs, there are many options to fit different individual needs. Aspiring psychiatric nurse practitioners should take a look at the list of offered PNP programs before choosing a suitable learning curriculum.

In 2016, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners reported that 11,988 out of more than 222,000 licensed nurse practitioners are specialized in mental health. This number is just a small percentage of all the nurse practitioners registered in the U.S. Considering there are also opportunities for this career outside the U.S., the psychiatric nursing field is already experiencing this projected increase in demand.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there haven’t been any new announcements that there would be a change of trajectory for the demand for psychiatric nurses. The World Health Organization has reported a lack of 6 million nurses worldwide before the pandemic hit the world. This report compels governments in all countries to invest in accelerating nursing education.

This urgent need for more nurses is also addressed to nurse specializations such as psychiatric nurses, which further supports the fact that the forecasted demand for psychiatric nurse practitioners will stay its projected course through the coming years. Aspiring psychiatric nurse practitioners can remain optimistic about this career’s future possibilities, even during this global pandemic.

Karen Cas-Alinas
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