How patients with severe mental illness experience care provided by psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners

J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2023 May 1;35(5):281-290. doi: 10.1097/JXX.0000000000000867.


Background: Previous studies in somatic health care revealed that patients find nurse practitioners reliable, helpful, and empathic and feel empowered, at peace, and in control when cared for by nurse practitioners (NPs). Only one study so far considered what value people with severe mental illness (SMI) attached to treatment by a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP).

Purpose: To explore what meaning people with SMI associate with the care provided by a PMHNP.

Methodology: A qualitative study from a phenomenological perspective was conducted, in which 32 people with SMI were interviewed. Data were analyzed using Colaizzi's seven-step method and the metaphor identification procedure (MIP).

Results: Eight fundamental themes emerged: (1) impact of the PMHNP on well-being, (2) feeling connected with, and (3) acknowledged by the PMHNP; (4) the PMHNP's care (not) needed; (5) perception of the PMHNP as a person; (6) shared decision-making; (7) PMHNP's expertise; and (8) flexibility of contact with the PMHNP. MIP analysis revealed six metaphors: PMHNP is a travel aid, means trust, is a combat unit, means hope, is an exhaust valve, and a helpdesk/encyclopedia.

Conclusions: The interviewees highly appreciated the treatment and support by the PMHNP for the impact on their well-being. Thanks to the connection with and recognition by the PMHNP, they felt empowered, human, and understood. Challenged by the PMHNP, they focused on possibilities to strengthen self-confidence and self-acceptance.

Implications: For further positioning of and education for PMHNPs, it is recommended to consider the meaning people with SMI associate with treatment and support by a PMHNP.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders*
  • Mental Health
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Nurse Practitioners* / education
  • Psychiatric Nursing* / education