The Pathway for a PMHNP Student
By Janiece DeSocio, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC, FAAN
It is a profound privilege to teach psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) students. I am inspired and humbled by my students’ passion to serve the most vulnerable members of our society and by the sacrifices they are willing to make to achieve this goal.
Many students in the PMHNP program at Seattle University are pursuing a second career in advanced practice psychiatric nursing after realizing that a previous career path didn’t satisfy their passion to make a difference in the world.
Many witnessed the effects of mental illness in family members or friends, while others worked in entry-level mental health positions where they witnessed the stigma and lack of access to care for at-risk populations.
As a career option, nursing spoke to them because it is a caring profession. Nurses care about the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. Students describe how they want to make a difference in all areas of their patients’ lives, and work to improve the mental health system.
Before these prospective students made it to an interview for our program, many had already endured significant life changes in preparation for admission. They returned to college and completed difficult pre-requisites such as microbiology, anatomy and physiology; achieving the minimum required 3.5 GPA. Many juggled family obligations, or took out loans or gave up their jobs to focus on studying. These decisions had wide impacts on their family, requiring personal and financial sacrifices.
When they were finally ready to apply to a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program, students faced what seemed like insurmountable odds: only 15 out of 60 applicants could be accepted. This cap on admissions is necessary to provide qualified preceptors to individually mentor each student during their practicum courses.
Admission begins a demanding journey of challenging courses and clinical rotations, managing commitments and schedules, finding a few hours for sleep each day, and minimizing the toll on personal health, family, and friends. Sacrifices are sometimes so significant that the University opened a food pantry where students in need can obtain free groceries.
The pathway of a PMHNP student is filled with challenges, sacrifices, juggled responsibilities, worries and tears, and moments of joy that affirm the meaning of their journey toward a life goal of service to humanity.