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UST to Offer Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Degree

Mental Health Nurse Practitioner with patientsIn fall 2021, the University of St. Thomas Carol and Otis Peavy School of Nursing plans to add a nurse practitioner track designed to prepare Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP) as part of a PMHNP track within the established Doctor of Nurse Practice (DNP) program. This program expansion was made possible by a recent Cullen Trust Grant for $200,000. The DNP track will be taught hybrid with in-person and online components.

One of the most in-demand Nursing Specialties Today

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners represent one of the most in-demand nursing specialties today. PMHNPs learn the advanced psychiatric skills of therapy, clinical management, and prescribing psychiatric medications to patients. Psychiatric nursing coursework includes psychiatric assessment and symptom management; psychopharmacology; individual, group, and family therapy.

“There is high demand for Mental Health Nurse Practitioners because not enough nurses are prepared in this particular specialty,” School of Nursing Professor and Director of the program, Lucindra Campbell-Law, said.

Statistics Display a Critical Unmet Need, Particularly in Underserved Areas

A review of workforce statistics displays a critical unmet need. According to Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies data collected in a 2017 Board of Nursing Education Program Information Survey, the number of nurse practitioners in Texas is approximately 21,812. Of this number, only 900 are identified as Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners or Clinical Nurse Specialist/ Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (www.dshs.state.tx.us cnws 2017-RN-Student-Demographics.) So, due to this shortage, there is a great need for these advanced practice nurses in Texas, particularly in underserved areas.

UST PMHNP Graduates will meet the Growing Need for Advanced Practice Nurses

“Our University is poised to meet the growing need for advanced practice nurses and to address our country’s shortage of primary care providers with PMHNP graduates,” Campbell-Law said. “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an anticipated 45 percent increase in advanced practice nurses will be needed by 2029 to meet the country’s healthcare needs.”

The UST DNP program with a PMHNP concentration will prepare nurses to meet high priority mental health needs, a workforce area with documented high demand. The program will increase the number of psychiatric nurse practitioners in this region who are prepared at the Doctor of Nursing Practice level to practice and address growing mental health needs.

The program will accept both post-baccalaureate and post-master’s prepared students. Full-time post bachelor students complete the program in three years, and post-master students who enroll full-time will complete the program in two years. Official transcripts of all undergraduate work (and graduate work, if applicable) sent Institution-to-Institution must document, at a minimum, the award of a Baccalaureate Degree in Nursing from an NLN or CCNE accredited School of Nursing and from a regionally accredited institution.

Peavy School of Nursing Accreditation of its PMHNP-DNP Track

The Peavy School of Nursing completed its initial accreditation visit for its DNP program by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education on Nov. 18-20, 2020, and anticipates an accreditation decision by the CCNE Board of Directors in May 2021. The DNP program, the first graduate degree in nursing to be offered by UST, launched in fall 2018, with the PMHNP-DNP track projected to begin fall 2021.

“Earning CCNE accreditation for our DNP program acknowledges the high-quality faculty, curriculum, courses, clinical partners and administrative and institutional support we have at the Nursing School,” Campbell-Law said.

Dr. Lucindra Campbell-LawDr. Campbell-Law will direct the Program

This program will be overseen by Dr. Lucindra Campbell-Law, the Cullen Trust in Health Care Endowed Chair, who has a long and successful history in academia, research and practice. She has earned both an Adult Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner licenses and is nationally certified in both areas. Campbell-Law is sought after as an expert on topics dealing with mental illnesses among underserved populations. She specializes her practice in working with military service members on screening and detection of post-traumatic stress disorders and traumatic brain injuries in specific populations such as veterans.

PMHNP Curriculum

The Nurse Practitioner Track will build on the DNP core curriculum, integrating the specialized knowledge and clinical competencies required by the Texas Board of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Graduates will be prepared to provide individualized patient care and to address population-based mental health needs. Courses to be developed will include: Advanced Pathophysiology, Advanced Pharmacology, Advanced Health Assessment and three Advanced Clinical Management courses. All courses will meet the educational standards for Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse practitioner programs. PMHNP graduates are eligible to sit for the Family PMHNP examination through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Concurrently, UST will Offer a Post-APRN and Post-Master’s Certificate for PHMHN

Concurrent with implementation of the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner track in the DNP program, the School of Nursing will implement a Post-APRN and a Post-Masters certificate for Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner preparation The Post-APRN certificate is for nurses currently educated and recognized as nurse practitioners who wish to add recognition in the Psychiatric/Mental Health specialty. The Post-Masters certificate is designed for nurses with a master's or doctoral degree in nursing who are not nurse practitioners but wish to be prepared in the Psychiatric/Mental Health specialty.

PMHNP’s Clients

PMHNPs work with a diverse range of patients from children through older adults. The program will provide them with the preparation to:

  • Initiate medical histories and physical and psychological assessment, including ordering and interpreting psychiatric-related diagnostic testing, generating differential diagnoses and managing psychiatric and mental health problems
  • Manage medications (Prescribe and evaluate treatment plan- pharmacological and non-pharmacological)

Sites of Practice:

There is a wide range of opportunities for our graduates to seek employment and to practice in a variety of practice sites. Telemedicine or telehealth is now used as one way to reach more patients within underserved populations to deliver mental health care in Texas.

PMHNPs practice in a variety of settings and with diverse populations, including:

  • Outpatient clinics
  • Community health (urban and rural)
  • Inpatient settings
  • Correctional facilities
  • Home health agencies
  • Schools
  • Government facilities

Salary expectations are competitive – starting $75,000 up to $150,000.

Apply or Learn More

To learn more, contact Sara Johnson at 713-313-6067 or mail to: sjohnso@stthom.edu or apply online.


The University of St. Thomas is Houston’s Catholic University. For more than 70 years, UST has graduated students into successful careers in medicine, education, business, public administration and more. As Houston grows, UST will continue to provide the strong leaders and skilled workers needed to meet those demands.