The College of Health Professions at Western Governors University (WGU) has launched a Master’s of Science in Nursing, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) degree. The degree program was developed to address the unmet need for mental health providers in the United States, particularly in light of the increasing rates of mental health disorders stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Currently, only 2.9% of the 192,000 NPs in the US work in the psychiatric/mental health specialty, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Up to 96% of counties in the US have unmet needs for mental health professionals, with rural areas having the biggest discrepancy.

“The ongoing mental health crisis in the nation, coupled with the stress from the pandemic, has overwhelmed qualified mental health providers who were already in short supply,” said Jan Jones-Schenk, DHSc, RN, NE-BC, executive dean and senior vice president of WGU’s College of Health Professions. “Rightfully, the role of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners is expanding as greater access to mental healthcare is created, and the stigma of seeking that care subsides. We are creating new pathways for nurses to advance their careers into this exciting area of clinical practice and meet a tremendous need in our nation.”

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The new psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner degree is available to nurses with a BSN from an accredited institution who have at least 1 year of clinical experience, are actively working, and reside in the one of the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The coursework and clinical component of the program can be completed in 2.5 years.


WGU’s College of Health Professions launches psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program. News release. February 24, 2022. Accessed March 1, 2022.