While most people rely on psychiatrists and psychologists to help deal with their mental health problems, psychiatric nursing is still deemed as one of the fastest growing areas in the field of nursing. It’s a good sign as it’s a testament to the growing awareness about the importance of mental health.
With more and more people paying close attention to their mental health, the demand for psychiatric nurses is also growing. If you’re thinking of specializing in this area, here are the things that you need to know.
What is a Psychiatric Nurse?
Simply defined, psychiatric nurses are nurses who can help treat patients with different kinds of psychological conditions like depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, anxiety, dementia, and bipolar disorder. They are highly trained in working directly with patients and their families. They’re also knowledgeable in behavioral therapy and capable of handling challenging behavior, build therapeutic alliances, and administer psychiatric medication.
What They Do
Psychiatric nurses have a long list of duties. These include:
- assessing and examining, as well as diagnosing, patients with mental health issues,
- counseling the families of the patients in how to handle their loved one’s condition,
- creation of treatment plans,
- providing support to patients,
- providing personal care to patients,
- providing psychotherapy services, and
- administering medications.
While psychiatric nurses work directly with patients, they’re still very different from licensed psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. They can provide great support and care to the patients but they can’t prescribe medication or counsel them.
Where They Work
There are lots of places where you can work as a psychiatric nurse. General and psychiatric hospitals are at the top of this list. Mental health clinics and other private practices will also be great places to work for. Home and community healthcare organizations can also hire you. And if you’re so inclined, correctional facilities also add psychiatric nurses to their staff.
How Much They Make
Salaries for psychiatric nurses can range from $47k to more than $100k a year. An MSN and other factors can affect your pay grade. Sign-on bonuses, overtime pay eligibility, night shifts, mentoring, and charge duties can also help boost what you can get.
What Can You Expect in Being a Psychiatric Nurse?
Experts say that psychiatric nursing is one of the most rewarding specialties in the field but it can also be one of the most challenging. This line of work is not for everyone as your patients will rely on you for emotional support. You can expect to be challenged in so many ways.
One challenge that you can face will involve difficult patients. While there are tons of voluntary patients who are aware of their condition and are willing to get help, there are also those who will resist your efforts. It can be challenging to make a connection and help them, so you have to be ready for that.
Psychiatric nurses also constantly have to face a threat of violence with some patients. Conflicts can arise in psychiatric facilities and it’s not uncommon for nurses and other medical staff to get hurt while trying to calm everyone down.
Growth is also expected in this area. As mentioned above, there’s a growing awareness among the public about mental health. This results in a higher demand for nurses in this line so there’s a notable shortage right now. This means that there’s a good chance to find a good offer from some of the best facilities and organizations if you’re highly qualified.
How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse?
To become a psychiatric nurse, you first need a basic nursing degree. It can be a 2-year or 3-year course with credits concentrated in this area. You can also get a BSN in Psychiatric Nursing to really get a foot in the field. This is a wise choice, especially since statistics show that 60% of graduates in this specialty get hired right after graduation.
You can also get certified as a psychiatric nurse through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). To do this, you need to be a licensed nurse with 2 years of RN practice and at least 2000 hours of clinical psych nursing practice clocked in over the past three years. You’re also required to have taken 30 hours of continuing education in this specialty in three years.
Personality-wise, you have to know how to set your limits between being compassionate towards your patients and being too attached to them. You have to keep in mind that you’re the one who is supposed to provide support and not the other way around.
Nursing Organizations Associated with Psychiatric Nurses
Psychiatric nurses can join these organizations for support and learn more about the latest developments and advancements in their field:
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA)
- International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses (ISPN)
What other careers should you consider if you’re interested in psychiatric nursing?
- Domestic Violence Nursing
- Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
- Substance Abuse Nursing