Dr. R. Lee Tyson on Post-Master’s Psychiatric-Mental Health

Nurses who focus on psychiatric-mental healthcare are needed more today than ever before. This became obvious when we sat down with Dr. R. Lee Tyson, Associate Professor of Clinical Nursing and the Director of University of Cincinnati’s (UC) Post-Master’s Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program, and learned more about this area of advanced nursing practice and the people who choose this specialty.

In his role, Dr. Tyson interacts with nurses from across the U.S. who are interested in growing their knowledge of the psychiatric-mental health practice area. They choose UC’s fully online program based on the quality of education it offers students and because of the University’s stellar reputation for its graduate nursing programs.


Dr. Tyson is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) holding dual doctorates in Psychiatric Nursing Practice and Theology & Spiritual Formation. He is triple-boarded and certified as a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (across the lifespan), Adult Nurse Practitioner and Certified Addiction Registered Nurse—Advanced Practice (CARN-AP, Nursing Addictionologist). He is also a Fellow in the International Academy of Addictions.

Dr. Tyson is the Director of the online Post-Master’s Certificate Program offered by University of Cincinnati.

Before entering academia and the mental-health industry, Dr. Tyson served as a minister for many years, and still devotes time as adjunct clergy. He has extensive clinical involvement working with indigent, minority, and underserved populations in an array of settings across Ohio.

Dr. Tyson joined UC in 2014 as an adjunct instructor. Soon, he was brought on as a visiting professor and moved from that role to assistant and then associate professor. He became a program director in 2018.

In addition to Dr. Tyson’s responsibilities at UC, he continues to be a practicing APRN and is active in the industry. Currently, he serves as the chair of the Content Expert Panel for the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program for the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Who the Post-Master’s Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program Attracts

The psychiatric-mental health post-master’s certificate program, which can be completed in 16 months, prepares nurses to provide effective care for patients with complex psychiatric health needs. The Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) works with individuals and families to develop a diagnosis, and then design, implement, and monitor a care plan. Responsibilities can also include prescribing medication and administering psychotherapy.

“People choose our program because it’s flexible enough for nurses who work full-time,” Dr. Tyson says. “Our students might be a registered nurse, Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, or Family Nurse Practitioner who decides they want to specialize and get certified in psychiatry.”

Dr. Tyson says that the ages and years of nursing experience for students in the program vary, as the program attracts a wide range of people. Some want to move fully into psychiatric-mental health, and others want to stay in primary care but broaden their scope of practice.

“Patients with depression, anxiety or other rudimentary kind of mental health concern often don’t immediately look for a psychiatric specialist,” Dr. Tyson says. “So, there’s value in having well-rounded primary care nurses.”

High-Paying Specialty Area for Nurses

PMHNPs can often command a much higher salary, especially if their specialty is a full-time focus. “There’s a dearth of care in mental health, so our graduates are very marketable,” Dr. Tyson says. “If they’re seeking a new job after completing our program, they can typically secure one relatively easily. And our graduates often get paid a nice premium from what I’ve seen.”

Based on their psychiatric-mental health specialty area or sub-specialty, such as pediatric psychiatry, or mood and thought disorders, UC graduates can work in a variety of care settings. Opportunities include outpatient clinics, schools, prisons, behavioral health homes, acute care services, long-term care, private practice, or telemedicine, working with patients virtually.

100% Online Curriculum

The foundation of UC’s online post-master’s curriculum is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the handbook used by U.S. healthcare professionals (and much of the world) as the authoritative guide to diagnosing mental disorders. “I sometimes call the DSM-5 the psychiatric bible, if you will, where you learn the fundamentals of psychopathology,” Dr. Tyson says.

One of the courses he teaches is Psychopathological Disorders Across the Lifespan, where nurses study the etiology or epidemiology of selected psychopathological disorders and assessment and diagnosis of common clinical variations in health patterns in adults and children with mental illness.

Other program courses include:

Systems Interventions for Individuals and Groups: focuses on interventions and theories that advanced practice psychiatric nurses utilize in planning, implementing, and evaluating care for adults and children with psychiatric disorders.

Neurobiology and Psychopharmacology – Life Cycle Perspectives: presents advanced concepts of neuropathic physiology of mental illness, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics of drugs used in the psychopharmacologic treatment and clinical management of various psychiatric disorders across the lifespan.

Pharmacology for Advanced Nursing Practice: prepares nurses for professional roles in advanced nursing practice with knowledge of pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic principles of common drug categories used to prevent illness and restore and maintain health across a person’s lifespan. Mechanisms of action, pharmacologic response, usual doses, adverse effects, indications, interactions, compatibilities, contraindications and routes of administration are emphasized in acute and chronic conditions.

The program also requires students to complete a set number of clinical hours divided among pediatrics, adults and geriatric populations.

Psychiatric-Mental Health is a Calling

As our conversation with Dr. Tyson was nearing its end, we asked for his parting thoughts on what makes UC’s online programs a great choice for nursing professionals who might be evaluating more than one university. He highlighted several aspects, starting with UC being a “remarkable nursing school steeped in a long, rich history.”

“From a faculty standpoint,” Dr. Tyson says, “our team is highly qualified with everyone working in the trenches, as we’re required to actively practice as advanced practice nurses in addition to our academic duties. And we gauge our faculty’s success based on our students’ success.”

As much as Dr. Tyson enjoys psychiatric-mental healthcare and has made it his life’s work, he says he’s not one to directly encourage people to be a PMHNP. “It’s a special calling,” he says, “and it’s often not a career path you choose. It chooses you.”

Dr. Tyson says that if you have a true passion for helping people, as so many nurses from all specialty areas demonstrate each day, your attention focuses instinctually on your patients. “Listening to people and putting a hand on their shoulders when they need it to say, you’re going to make it through this, is what we do. And if you can see yourself helping patients with psychiatric issues, making a meaningful difference in their lives, then this challenging field may very well be for you.”

Grow Your Expertise in Psychiatric-Mental Health

To sum up our informative discussion with Dr. Tyson, we’ll leave you with these reasons to choose UC’s online nursing programs:

• In our Post-Master’s Certificate Psychiatric-Mental Health program, you gain real-world experience and advanced psychiatric nursing skills focused on working with patients of all ages who live with mental illness.

• Upon graduation, you can work most anywhere in the healthcare industry or in the country. According to the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, the demand for psychiatric nurse practitioners is estimated to rise 18% from 2016-2030.

If you’re interested in learning more about this program, the first step is to apply after confirming you meet the prerequisites, which include a current, unrestricted RN license and master’s in nursing from a regionally accredited institution. You can start the program on the next available semester.

Ready to take the next step? Complete the online form, and an Enrollment Advisor will reach out to you.

Dr. Tyson and the rest of the staff look forward to meeting you!

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