The Distribution of Advanced Practice Nurses Within the Psychiatric Workforce

Authors: Angela Beck, PhD, MPH | Cory Page, MPH, MPP | Jessica Buche, MPH, MA | Maria Gaiser, MPH

Topics: Behavioral Health, Nursing, Staffing

Research Center: Behavioral Health Workforce Research Center

January 22, 2020

The psychiatric workforce shortage remains a serious issue in the field of behavioral health. In 2018, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) designated 5,124 mental health professional shortage areas in the United States. Demand for the psychiatry workforce is projected to exceed the supply by 16,450 workers by 2030. Studies continue to show that the persistent shortage in the psychiatric workforce may partly be remedied by advanced practice psychiatric mental health nurses if they are permitted to work to the full extent of their education and training. However, many national estimates of behavioral health workforce shortages center on psychiatrist-to-population ratios, which do not consider the contribution of advanced practice psychiatric nurses to behavioral health workforce capacity and care delivery.

This article examines the size and distribution of the advanced practice psychiatric nurse workforce relative to the total psychiatry workforce to determine whether nurses are predominantly working in areas with higher or lower levels of behavioral health specialists.

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