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Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner


Behavioral mental illness in the United States increased by 2.9 million cases between 1997 and 2012. Many of these disorders are identified mid- to late adolescence, but left untreated, resulting in lifetime symptoms. The absence of childhood onset alone does not preclude a behavioral mental disorder: 50% of all US adults suffer from at least one mental illness in their lifetime with many adults (45%) suffering two or more disorders, increasing risk of physical diseases such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, obesity, and asthma.

Colorado borders the western edge of the Great Plains and spans a land mass of nearly 250,000 square miles. While 85% of the U.S. population lives within an hour’s drive of a Level I/II emergency room, only 24% of all Western US rural residents live within this driving distance (SAMHSA, 2013). Although Colorado ranks sixth for adolescent suicide—close to 17% of adolescent Coloradans 13 to 18 yearsofage report having contemplated suicide within the last year—Colorado reports only 234 advanced practice psychiatric nurses available tohelp solve these issues.

The graduate programs at UCD are designed for advanced practice nursing roles. Graduates from the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program are eligible to sit for the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certificate. The curriculum was refocused to meet the 2013 NONPF requirements and SAMSHA integrated care competencies and it was approved by faculty as part of the CCNE agreed quality program improvement on July 27, 2015. The curriculum includes integrated behavioral health, open to interprofessional students (NURS 6664), merged psychotherapy and behavioral changes for health promotion (NURS 6555) and enhanced assessment, and neurobiology and psychopharmacology content (NURS 6659). The program also added 1 credit to the previous curriculum to enhance emphasis on integrated behavioral health care and cultural sensitivity. The curriculum consists of an MSN core (13 credits), an advanced practice NP core (10 credits), a didactic psychiatric specialty core (13 credits), and a specialty clinical practicum (14 credits), totaling 50 academic credits. Didactic content also includes 3 credits of integrated behavioral health care open to interprofessional enrollment (NURS 6664) and focuses on the use of merged psychotherapy and behavioral changes for health promotion (NURS 6555).

The curriculum provides students with 14 credits (630 hours) of clinical experiences (Attachment 5), more than the 500 hours required by CCNE, NONPF, NTF and ANCC. Two different mechanisms are used to interact throughout the program. First, students and preceptors are offered the use of a social media based learning system. Contact between preceptors and students is also maintained using Vidyo, a videoconferencing platform which is currently being used by many of the local health care agencies for telehealth delivery. Given the vast distances associated with the population in rural Colorado this use of videoconferencing is used to conduct remote site visits in distance consultations. Students are also able to participate in the Collaborative Advanced Psychiatric-Education eXchange (CO-APEX) program, a partnership between the CU College of Nursing and the University of New Mexico College of Nursing.

Students' training hour contact reports are carefully logged regardless of location. Time spent with clinical partners, percentage of hours, and populations seen will be tracked using Typhon clinical tracking systems. The students log the type of treatments they train in, the preceptors they train with, the location of the preceptors, the diagnostic codes, ages treated, and type of population served (i.e. rural\underserved).


Plans of Study

This program provides course work that focuses on complex psychiatric nursing assessment and interventions in children, adolescents, adults, and older adults. Scope of practice includes advanced practice psychiatric-mental health nursing assessment, psychopharmacology, group and individual therapy, and advanced n​ursing interventions across the lifespan.

The PMHNP program will use a variety of distance educational strategies that combine intensive online supervision and course work with some on-site intensives. This format is attractive to rural and working students by allowing students to attend from a distance as well as accommodating the student's work schedule. In addition to admission requirements, an interview is required.

*Additional Certificate Information Post-Graduate Certificate Information

A post-graduate certificate is available in this specialty.​

Gainful Employment and Program Statistics for Post-Graduate Certificate

For more information regarding graduation rates, the median debt of students completing our certificate programs and other important information, please visit the University of Colorado Denver Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness.​​​​​​​​

Nursing Post-Graduate Certificate – Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner ​Gainful Employment Disclosure



How long will it take to complete the PMHNP program?

The NP programs are 43-52 semester hours. This includes the 12 (14 for PMHNP) credits of clinical experience. Most students successfully complete the program in 2 to 3 years by taking 6 to 9 credits in the fall and spring semesters and 3 to 6 credits in the summer. The program must be completed in 5 years.

Do the NP programs have a clinical requirement?

Yes. The PMHNP requires 14 credits of clinical experience which equals 630 contact hours. Clinical experiences are usually completed in 2 and 3 credit blocks.

Are the NP programs offered completely online or in class?

Over two thirds of the didactic courses are offered in both an online and in class format which alternate semester to semester. Your academic advisor will work with you to develop a program plan to meet your individual needs and learning preferences.

Will I be required to come to Colorado?

Yes. Clinical placements require a current and unencumbered Registered Nurses license from your home state. Additionally, although we have many distance learning options some courses must be completed on-campus.

Will this program prepare me to sit for the ANCC certification as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?

Yes, our courses provide you with the knowledge and skills to take the ANCC certification examination or AANP certification examination if you so choose.

Can I take a course before I apply?

Yes, you may take up to 12 semester credits as a non-degree student prior to being accepted to the program. You must meet all prerequisite requirements of the course. Non-degree students register on a space available basis during open enrollment just prior to the beginning of the semester. Students enrolled as non-degree seeking are not eligible for financial aid. Please see the Non-degree program for more information.

Are there any expectations outside of the classroom?

Yes, the nurse practitioner program is accredited by NLN and CCNE. Following completion of the program, graduates may take certification examinations either American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) or American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) examinations in their specialty.

The program is rigorous, challenging, and very rewarding. During the clinical courses, it is strongly recommended that students do not work or work as little as possible. Students will also have the opportunity to have a clinical placement in rural Colorado during the last semesters of their program if they choose.

The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculty (NONPF) has published core competencies in each specialty for students to achieve. Students may need to increase their clinical credits if they do not achieve these competencies within the required clinical credits.

All students are required to have a current and unencumbered RN license, current immunizations, and basic life support.

How do I apply and get information for the CU-UNITE multidisciplinary urban underserved track?

What is CU - UNITE?

The Colorado Urban UNderserved Interprofessional Health Training & Education track (CU-UNITE) is a new longitudinal curriculum for students at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, College of Nursing Nurse Practitioner Program and the Child Health Associate/ Physician Assistant (CHA/PA) Program. The CU-UNITE track is specially designed for students interested in working with urban underserved communities. The track will provide the skills and support needed for future health care providers serving urban underserved populations.

Note: This track is open only to students who have been accepted into the program.

Why Should I Consider CU - UNITE?

If you are passionate about working with ethnically and racially diverse populations, serving the uninsured and those with limited access to health care in urban areas, then CU-UNITE is for you. Students completing the CU-UNITE curriculum will have a thorough understanding of healthcare disparities and inequities, the multifaceted role of the health care provider in urban communities, and knowledge about health issues of specific populations of patients in urban areas.

For more information, visit the CU-UNITE page.​​​