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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.



How long will it take to complete the PMHNP program?
Do the NP programs have a clinical requirement?
Are the NP programs offered completely online or in class?
Will I be required to come to Colorado?
Will this program prepare me to sit for the ANCC certification as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?
Can I take a course before I apply?
Are there any expectations outside of the classroom?
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.​​​



Upon completion of the nursing program, students will be prepared to incorporate pertinent knowledge, values and abilities for direct and indirect provider roles to:

  • Implement caring and competent nursing practice with individuals, families and communities based on understanding the human experiences of health, illness and healing.
  • Integrate the ethical use of technology and information systems to augment the human capacity for health, facilitate decision-making, support collaboration and foster communication.
  • Promote health of local to global communities through promoting safe environments and safe and effective health care addressing the interaction among individuals, communities and their environmental contexts.
  • Manage care to achieve quality, cost-effective and ethical outcomes in the delivery of health care for individuals, families and populations.
  • Engage in leadership to promote social justice related to access, quality and socio-cultural acceptability of health care through relationship-centered caring, advocacy and empowerment.
  • Negotiate and adapt the delivery and management of health care and health care systems for diverse populations and environments.
  • Practice relationship-centered caring through self-awareness, by developing and maintaining respectful relationships, communicating effectively, and integrating the influence of the human experience of health, illness and healing.
  • Practice nursing reflectively, guided by theory, based on best evidence and integrating creative and critical thinking.
  • Participate in generating and testing knowledge regarding nursing, health care and reflective caring practice.
  • Actively engage in self-directed learning to maintain state-of-the-art nursing practice and to facilitate the education of future practitioners, paraprofessionals and healthy communities.

View the national NONPF Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Competencies​.