Frequently Asked Questions from CFMHN
What do psychiatric mental health nurses (PMHN) do?
The clinical practice of psychiatric mental health nursing occurs when Registered Nurses (RNs) work with individuals, families, groups and communities, assessing the mental health needs, and developing a nursing diagnosis and a plan of nursing care, implementing the plan, evaluating the plan and continuing to revise the plan with the client.
Psychiatric mental health nursing (PMHN) is considered a “specialty” for Registered Nurses (RN's). Other designations of nurses that practice in this specialized area are: Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPN's) in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba; Registered Practical Nurses (RPN's) in Ontario; and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN's) in some other provinces in Canada.
How do I apply for work as a PMHN in Canada from another country?
Each province has its own licensing board for Registered Nurses and should be contacted directly for specific requirements for working in the province of choice. The Canadian Nurses Association of Canada provides information for all the provinces and nursing opportunities from abroad. www.cna-nurses.ca
Registered Psychiatric Nurses can work in the 4 western provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia), and each province has its own licensing board. The national Registered Psychiatric Nurses website can provide specific detail www.rpnc.ca
Registered Practical Nurses (RPN's) in Ontario can be contacted at www.rpnao.org
Can you specialize in PMH nursing?
There are some Advanced Practice Programs available in Canada. For more information, contact the CFMHN provincial representative for the specific province of interest.
Are psychiatric mental health nurses certified?
The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) annually hosts a national examination* in the specialty of PMH Nursing. Registered Nurses who successfully complete the exam are considered certified in PMH Nursing and can use the credential CPMHN(C).
*please note that the CNA exam is only available to Registered Nurses who are members of CNA at this time. Contact CNA for further information.
How can I become a PMHN?
To become a registered nurse (RN), there are four-year college or university programs leading to a bachelor’s degree in nursing. All are eligible to take the RN licensing examination after graduation. With 2 years experience in the specialty area of PMH nursing, the RN is eligible to apply to write the Canadian Nurses Association specialty certification examination in PMH nursing leading to certification in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing CPMHN(C).
How do I find a good program for psychiatric mental health nursing?
The Canadian Federation of Mental Health Nurses has developed and published a position paper “Core Competencies in Undergraduate Nursing Programs”. When interviewing potential schools of nursing, ask if they have implemented these competencies in their curriculum. This document is available on the professional practice page. Some provinces in Canada have Psychiatric Nursing Programs for nurses to train specifically in psychiatric nursing. Each western province (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia) has its own Psychiatric Nurses Association that can provide further detail.
How can I determine if psychiatric mental health nursing is for me before I enter a basic nursing program?
It is often wise to do some volunteer work in agencies, hospitals, and/or community programs where you would encounter individuals or families with mental health problems. These volunteer roles may be limited. PMHNs need good communication and relationship skills as well as a broad base in the basic and behavioural sciences in their work.
Basic nursing programs provide a “rotation” in psychiatric mental health nursing that introduces students to the specialty and assists them with determining if they want to work in this area of nursing.
Is psychiatric mental health nursing experiencing a shortage now?
As with all nursing specialties, we too are experiencing a shortage of nurses at all levels and in most roles.
How do PMHNs differ from psychiatrists, registered psychiatric nurses, social workers and psychologists?
PMHNs have degrees or diplomas in nursing leading to Registered Nurse designation. In many settings Registered Nurses and Registered Psychiatric Nurses have the same role and function. At times, the role of the nurse may overlap with those of a social worker or psychologist in relation to group facilitation, clinical counseling or discharge planning. Psychologists are trained to do psychological testing. Members of the other disciplines are not trained in this way. All of these different psychiatric mental health care providers can practice independently, but are also subject to provincial laws governing practice and scope of practice (what each is allowed to do).
How can nurses “switch” to psychiatric mental health nursing?
The best way is to apply for an entry-level psychiatric mental health nursing position in a hospital or agency. Some schools provide courses for review of psychiatric mental health nursing. Contact the CFMHN Provincial Representative in your province for more information.
How can I find out more about psychiatric mental health nursing?
Libraries and online resources are the best vehicle for journal articles and books on the specialty of PMH nursing. The professional practice page provides the Standards of Practice for PMH nursing in Canada along with articles published by the CFMHN. You can also contact the Provincial Representative on the CFMHN Board of Directors, in your province. Each representative and contact information is listed on the Board of Directors page of this website.