How Does a Psychiatrist Make a Diagnosis so Quickly?

How Does a Psychiatrist Make a Diagnosis so Quickly?

Psychiatrists can make a diagnosis and treatment plan quickly – often within one 60 minute session. How do they make a diagnosis so quickly? Dr Jennie Byrne clarifies Psychiatrist training in this article.

Mar 1st, 2019

Q: How Does a Psychiatrist Make a Diagnosis so Quickly?

A: Training, training, and more training!

If you are curious about how a psychiatrist can make a diagnosis so quickly, the answer is simple – training! A Psychiatrist has a total of 12 years of training after high school – 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 4 years of residency. Some psychiatrists complete an additional 1-3 years of fellowship training for a specialty like Child and Adolescent Psychiatry or Addiction Psychiatry.

This grid compares the training of different medical professionals who treat mental health issues. Since some standards vary from state to state and since there is some variation in the training, the graph below tries to illustrate the graduate education, period of time training under supervision, total patient care hours for all types of patients, and actual clinical experience in treating psychiatric patients required for licensure. 

Psychiatrist (MD, DO):

Length of Graduate-Level Education: 4 years (90 credit hours)
Years of Supervised Residency Training:
3-7 years (residency/fellowship)
Total Patient Care Hours Required Through Training:
12,000-16,000 hours
Clinical Rotations in Psychiatry: 140-180 weeks

Primary Care / Internist  (MD, DO) 

Length of Graduate-Level Education: 4 years (90 credit hours)
Years of Supervised Residency Training:
3-7 years (residency/fellowship)
Total Patient Care Hours Required Through Training:
12,000-16,000 hours
Clinical Rotations in Psychiatry: 4-12 weeks 

Nurse Practitioner (NP) 

Length of Graduate-Level Education: 400 contact hours of didactic education 
Years of Supervised Residency Training: Not Required 

Total Patient Care Hours Required Through Training: 400 hours of supervised clinical experience 

Clinical Rotations in Psychiatry: 0-6 weeks 

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) 

Length of Graduate-Level Education: 400 contact hours of didactic education 
Years of Supervised Residency Training: Not Required 

Total Patient Care Hours Required Through Training: 400 hours of supervised clinical experience 

Clinical Rotations in Psychiatry: 13-16 weeks 

Physician Assistant (PA) 

Length of Graduate-Level Education: 2.5 years 
Years of Supervised Residency Training: Not Required 

Total Patient Care Hours Required Through Training: 2,000 hours 

Clinical Rotations in Psychiatry: 4-8 weeks 

Physician Assistance, Psychiatry Certificate 

Length of Graduate-Level Education: 2.5 years 
Years of Supervised Residency Training: Not Required 

Total Patient Care Hours Required Through Training: 2,000 hours 

Clinical Rotations in Psychiatry: 50 weeks 

As shown above, there is significant disparity in training and supervised experience among those who treat patients with psychiatric illnesses – from psychiatric physicians and NP/PAs to non-psychiatric physicians and NP/PAs. Psychiatrists are required to have years of training and supervised practice in order to receive a medical license. In addition, psychiatrists are trained in general medicine prior to their specialty training. Traditionally, the training for NPs and PAs has been primarily medical in nature, although there are programs that provide additional training and certification in psychiatry. 

Want to learn more about Psychiatrists in North Carolina? Please click here.

Want to learn more about Psychiatrists in the USA? Please click here.

A Psychiatrist’s Toolkit: Supervising NPs and PAs, The North Carolina Psychiatric Association, 2016.

Dr. Jennie Byrne, M.D., PhDDr. Jennie Byrne, M.D., PhD
With over 15 years of medical expertise, Jennie Byrne, MD, PhD, is a board-certified psychiatrist with experience treating mental health conditions in adults, including dementia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and depression. After practicing in New York City for 12 years, Dr. Byrne relocated to North Carolina in 2008; she currently cares for patients in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, at Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill. Dr. Byrne earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She then received her doctorate from New York University Department of Neurophysiology. She also has a doctorate of medicine from New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Byrne went on to complete a psychiatry residency at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. In addition to her work as a psychiatrist, Dr. Byrne has performed extensive research on attention, memory, and depression. As a board- certified adult psychiatrist, Dr. Byrne focuses on the needs of each patient to pro.

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