Employment of Advanced-practice Psychiatric Nurses to Stem Rural Mental Health Workforce Shortages

Document Type

Policy Brief

Publication Date



Adolescent, Adult, Employment, Female, Humans, Male, Mental Health Services, Middle Aged, Nurse Practitioners, Professional Practice Location, Psychiatric Nursing, Rural Health Services, United States, MRHRC, mental health

Publication Title

Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.)


OBJECTIVE: People living in rural areas have the same incidence of mental illness but far less access to mental health services compared with people living in urban areas. This brief report describes the workforce of advanced-practice psychiatric nurses (APPNs) and explores their potential to ease the rural mental health workforce shortage.

METHODS: National certification data were used to describe workforce characteristics and the rural distribution of APPNs. All nationally certified APPNs in 2003 were included (N=8,751).

RESULTS: APPNs were more likely than psychiatrists to live in rural areas. The ratio of APPNs to state rural populations ranged from .06 to 14.9. The mean+/-SD ratio of APPNs per 100,000 in the rural population was 3.0+/-3.0.

CONCLUSIONS: APPNs have great potential to be a solution to the rural mental health workforce shortage. Even so, the number of APPNs must increase and barriers to their full scope of practice must be removed.