Psychiatric nursing is unlike any other kind of nursing. While psych nurses aren’t there to treat or reverse depression or dementia, they can offer the understanding empathy only a nurse can offer to help patients begin healing. Mental illness is by far one of the most challenging disorders to treat. Thus, it’s easy to see why psychiatric nursing can bring some unique challenges to the job and some rewarding moments. If a psychiatric nursing career interests you, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about psych nurses.
What is a Psychiatric Nurse?
First of all, there are two primary types of psychiatric nurses or career paths you can take. First, you can work as a psych registered nurse. You can also work in more advanced roles like a psychiatric nurse practitioner or psychiatric/mental health advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Mental health nurses are essentially specialized nurses who focus on caring for those with mental illness’s psychological and physical well-being.
They also support the family members and friends of those with mental health conditions. Psych nurses may assess mental health needs and develop nursing plans for care.
National average salary: $74,651 per year with about $12,125 extra in overtime
Job outlook: 26% increase by 2022
Where Do Psych Nurses Work?
Like with other medical professions, psychiatric nurses find themselves working in both inpatient and outpatient care. These can be hospitals or psychiatric facilities that offer inpatient treatment. Or outpatient care in the patient’s home or a local clinic. Psych nurses have a bit more independence in terms of where they can work. They can also work with a wider variety of patients on their own, making outpatient care a standard option for many.
Other work settings for psychiatric mental health nurses (PMHN) include rehabilitation centers, correctional facilities, mental health agencies, schools, colleges of nursing, and military clinics or hospitals.
What Kind of Patients Are On A Psychiatric Unit?
Although psych nurses work with patients all over the place, they can work with almost every segment of the population. Patients in this unit can be children, adolescents, adults, and older people. They often work with people with substance use disorders and those with eating disorders, among other mental illnesses.
What Does a Psych Nurse Do?
Unlike other traditional nurses, psych nurses don’t treat any conditions. Instead, they work with a larger group of health care professionals to develop and implement care plans. Psych nurses can work with anyone who has a mental or behavioral condition that’s negatively impacting their life.
Depending on the path someone chooses, their duties will vary. The psych nurse essentially develops a nursing diagnosis and a plan of care, implements the treatment plan, and evaluates its effectiveness. On the other hand, APRNs also offer primary care and treat individuals and families with psychiatric disorders, sometimes even offering psychotherapy.
Most responsibilities include:
- Prescribe medications if needed
- Administer medications
- Implement nursing care plans
- Assist in basic needs
- Facilitate group therapy
- Create treatment plans
- Offer psychotherapy
- Coordinate with families, doctors, and other health professionals
- Provide self-care
- Evaluate mental health needs of patients
How Do You Become a Psych Nurse?
A career as a psychiatric nurse can be gratifying and exciting. The path starts by earning either an associate’s degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing. There, prospects need to pass the NCLEX-RN licensure examination to become a registered nurse (RN). After this, many try to spend some time building up nursing skills before moving to a psychiatric nursing path.
It’s possible to work in psychiatry without certification. However, there are some certifications and advanced practices that can help. Those who wish to continue their education can become an advanced training registered nurse (APRN) to earn a master’s or doctoral degree in psychiatric-mental health nursing.
- Psychiatric-mental Health Nursing RN-BC Credential
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Psych Nurse?
It takes a specific combination of skills to become successful as a psych nurse. Communication, empathy, and interpersonal skills are at the essence. However, setting healthy boundaries and excellent technical skills will also be beneficial. Psychiatric nurses are very hands-on with daily monitoring of their patients, requiring patience, empathy, and organization.
Most common skills for psych nurses include:
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- Extensive knowledge about medication effects and interactions
- A critical eye for signs of deteriorating mental processes or advancing mental illness
- Exceptional coordination and collaborative skills
- Good problem solving and adaptability skills
Starting Your Psych Nursing Career
Psychiatric nurses have a unique career filled with ups and downs. If you’re interested in a psychiatric nursing career, these are the steps you need to get started. Also, due to psych nurses’ nature and their flexibility, mental health nurses are often highly coveted travel nurses who can move freely across the country. At Stability Healthcare, we place nurses in hospitals across the United States, helping them find their perfect roles. See our open jobs today!