If you’re looking for a dynamic career path that blends psychology and psychiatry within the in-demand nursing field, then you could be the perfect match for becoming a psychiatric nurse. With roots in the late 19th century, psychiatric-mental health nursing is a rather new discipline that has developed to treat patients diagnosed with mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, substance abuse, and depression. Mental illnesses are often not considered true medical conditions by the public, but they can actually be more distressing than other bodily diseases. Psychiatric nurses specialize in mental health to help patients overcome their psychiatric disorder and the stigma associated with it for living their best lives. Below is a broad overview of the profession to determine whether psychiatric nursing is right for you.
What Psychiatric Nurses Do
As part of the psychiatric treatment team, psychiatric nurses begin by interviewing new patients to learn of their mental health history, symptoms, and living habits. Psychiatric nurses will then help psychiatrists and other physicians to develop a detailed treatment plan for providing the comprehensive mental health care patients require. During treatment, psychiatric nurses may provide supportive counseling, assist with everyday tasks like grooming, deliver medications, and help families better understand the mental illness. At times, psychiatric nurses must also respond to distressed patients in a non-threatening manner and use de-escalation techniques to help patients manage their anger. Some psychiatric nurses may organize social events for patients to connect and develop social skills for faster recovery.
Where Psychiatric Nurses Work
Psychiatric nurses can find employment opportunities in many different healthcare and community settings focused on mental health. Most will be found working in general hospitals, psychiatric specialty hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, community mental health clinics, and outpatient treatment facilities. Some psychiatric nurses will work in correctional institutions to help treat criminal offenders who have been diagnosed with mental illness. Other psychiatric nurses may also find work in school systems to deliver care to children with emotional or cognitive impairments. Many psychiatric nurses work regular business hours, but those in inpatient facilities will need to work shifts to ensure 24/7 patient coverage.
How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse
The pathway towards careers in psychiatric nursing will depend on which level of care you wish to offer. Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can work in the mental health field after just one to two years of schooling. However, most psychiatric nurses have received RN licensure after completing a two-year associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). In order to become certified in psychiatric-mental health nursing through the ANCC, you’ll need to hold current RN license, have two years of full-time work experience in nursing, and practice at least 2,000 hours in psychiatric care. Nurses who continue to graduate school to receive a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can advance their careers further to become Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP) too.
Overall, psychiatric nursing is a rewarding, patient-facing profession that allows nurses to specialize in mental health care to help patients deal with challenges unique to mental illnesses. If you’re an aspiring nurse with excellent communication skills, problem-solving abilities, compassion, and a good dose of emotional maturity, becoming a psychiatric nurse could be the perfect niche for facilitating recovery in those in need.