It is entirely within a family nurse practitioner's (FNP) scope of practice to prescribe psychiatric medications, such as SSRIs (citalopram, escitalopram), SNRIs (duloxetine), mood stabilizers (lithium), etc.
Psychiatry is within an FNP's scope of practice.
In fact, in many states across the United States, it is legal for practices to hire FNPs to treat and take care of psychiatric patients.
You may be aware that nurse practitioners have several different specialities (apart from FNP, which is seen as general practice). Nurse practitioner specialties include pediatric NP, adult NP, neonatal NP, psychiatric mental health NP, acute care nurse practitioner, and adult gerontology NP, to name a few.
When hiring a nurse practitioner to treat mental health conditions, the vast majority of practices seek a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC). However, if unable to locate one or if general medical treatment will be provided in addition to psychiatric treatment, the practice can legally hire an FNP (usually with some psychiatric background) to fill the role.
Usually, FNPs will not fill roles of pure psychiatric treatment to psychiatric patients. For this role, normally PMHNPs are hired. However, if an FNP is hired for a general medical position, s/he will incidentally see a few patients who complain of mental health conditions in addition to medical conditions. For uncomplicated mental health conditions such as mild depression, an FNP is capable of handling this without a need for a referal to a mental health specialist. For more complicated mental health conditions, an FNP will likely refer the patient to a more trained mental health specialist such as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner or a psychiatrist.
The same is true with physicians. Primary care physicians can prescribe all types of medications, including psychotropic medications. In fact, according to statistics, primary care physicians prescribe 70% of all psychotropic medications among physicians. This means that most psychotropic medications are prescribed by PCPs than by psychiatrists. With NPs, family nurse practitioners are seen as the generalists. Like PCPs, FNPs have the same authority.
So, as an FNP, yes, you can definitely prescribe psychotropic medications. However, as is always the case for an NP, know your strengths and weaknesses. If you're uncomfortable and unsure handling certain mental health conditions, delegate this to a mental health specialist. Your likely role as an FNP is to deal medical conditions in a medical setting which will on occasion present mental health issues. For simple mental health conditions, you may have more than enough adequate training on handling it. However, for complex cases, it is best to refer to a mental health specialist.
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