Are you interested in helping people with mental illness? Learn about what psychiatric nurses do and how you can become one.
Psychiatric nurses, also known as psychiatric-mental health nurses utilize their expertise in the field of mental health to help patients to overcome mental illness so that they may live full lives. These professionals are educated and trained not only in mental health, but also in crisis intervention, therapy and medications. Psychiatric nurses care for patients suffering from a variety of mental health issues, such as anxiety disorders (e.g. phobias, panic disorder), mood disorders (e.g. depression, bipolar disorder), psychotic disorders (e.g. schizophrenia), addictions and substance abuse, and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
Aside from diagnosing and treating patients with mental illness, it is a psychiatric nurse’s job to educate and provide counsel to patients and their families. They work in a treatment team together with a variety of health care professionals to provide comprehensive medical care to patients. Their duties can include assessing their patients’ mental health needs, creating and evaluating treatment plans, administer psychotherapy and other interventions, provide support, coordinate their patients’ care with family members and other doctors and caregivers, and depending on the training level they’ve achieved, prescribe medications.
Hospitals, long-term care facilities, outpatient centers, community mental health organizations, addiction and substance abuse treatment centers, correctional facilities, home health care agencies, and schools that serve children with emotional and cognitive disorders offer employment to psychiatric nurses.
How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse
Some facilities may consider hiring RNs or licensed practical nurses who have obtained an associate’s degree in nursing or a nursing diploma and experience. However, most employers generally prefer to hire psychiatric nurses generally who have a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited college.
Registered nurses are required to obtain licensing from their state by taking and passing the NCLEX-RN. It is highly recommended that aspiring psychiatric nurses gain at least two years of experience working in a psychiatric training in order to determine if they have the aptitude for working with patients with mental illness. RNs can also obtain additional specific training in psychological therapies, dealing with challenging behavior and administration of medication through elective classes, continuing education, or on-the-job experience.
Those who wish to advance their career can go on to obtain graduate level education in order to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist.
Important Qualities for a Psychiatric Nurse
Compassion and Emotional Maturity – Psychiatric nurses need to be genuinely caring and patient, particularly since they will be dealing with patients whose mental illness range from the delicate to the dangerous, as it can be quite overwhelming.
Communication Skills ¬– The job of psychiatric nurses involves constant communication with patients, their families, and other health care providers, which necessitates the ability to express concepts and instructions clearly.
Team Player – In order to provide the best care for patients, psychiatric nurses must be able to work with and support other members of the treatment team.
Critical Thinking and Detail Oriented – The well-being of patients depend on their psychiatric nurse’s accurate assessment, diagnosis and appropriate treatment of their mental illness. Psychiatric nurses must also be able to think clearly and react quickly in emergency situations.
Psychiatric Nursing Licenses, Certifications and Registrations
All states and employers require RNs to hold state licenses in order to work in the healthcare industry. In addition, psychiatric nurse practitioners are required to obtain clearance from their state and the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration in order to prescribe medications.
Psychiatric RNs may also pursue voluntary certification through organizations such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which entails passing an examination and demonstrating work experience and continuing education in the field of psychiatric nursing.