Psychiatric nursing is one of the more unique nursing positions. The role allows nurses a chance to explore the mind and psychology. Whereas most nursing focuses on treating the body, psychiatric nursing emphasizes treating the mind.
Mental illness presents itself in ways that are unique from physical ailments. Therefore, psychiatric nurses need other skills to perform in this role.
In other words, you can’t use a stethoscope to detect signs of depression.
Psychiatric nurses, also known as mental health nurses, have the potential to save and enrich their patients’ lives. The field is not free from challenges. Some mental illnesses aren’t treated with medication.
However, sometimes people need empathy and to learn healthy coping skills.
In this post, we will explore the role of a psychiatric nurse.
Specifically, we will cover:
- What is a psychiatric nurse?
- What are psychiatric nurse duties?
- What conditions does a psychiatric nurse treat?
- How do you become a psychiatric nurse?
- How much does a psychiatric nurse make?
- What is the job outlook?
Let’s jump in!
What is a psychiatric nurse?
A psychiatric nurse (psych nurse) specializes in treating patients with different mental illnesses. Some of the disorders include:
- Mood disorders
- Eating disorders
- Addiction disorders
- Psychotic disorders
Mental health nurses treat a wide variety of ages, from children to older adults.
Psychiatric nurses work with patients who often deal with trauma.
These patients need emotional support, coping skills, and therapy from mental health professionals.
Above all, the psych nurse works with a team of case managers, social workers, and psychiatrists to help create treatment and discharge plans.
What are psychiatric nurse duties?
There are two types of psychiatric nurses: registered nurse (RN) or psychiatric nurse practitioner (PNP). The psychiatric duties that a nurse performs day-to-day depend on their role, though many duties of an RN and PNP overlap.
The psychiatric nurse practitioner can diagnose, create treatment plans and provide psychotherapy.
On any given day, a psych nurse might:
- Provide primary health care
- Administer medications and take note of side effects
- Educate patients on coping skills
- Counsel and facilitate group therapy
- Coordinate with other healthcare team members
In some states, psychiatric nurse practitioners can prescribe medication.
What conditions does a psychiatric nurse treat?
Psychiatric nurses deal with many different mental illnesses. The following disorders are some of the more common conditions psychiatric nurses treat.
Mood disorders: Psych nurses often work with patients suffering from depression and/or bipolar disorder. Patients who have these conditions may feel fatigued, sad, unmotivated, and hopeless. With bipolar disorder, patients may go through mania. Mania leads to racing thoughts, sleepless nights, and delusions of grandeur.
Psychotic disorders: Patients who go through psychosis will have auditory and visual hallucinations. These hallucinations may cause them to act in strange or even violent ways.
The patients most likely to experience psychosis are those with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Additionally, patients under the influence of drugs can experience psychosis.
Eating disorders: People with eating disorders often have unhealthy self-esteem and cognitive distortions. The typical eating disorders are bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder. These disorders tend to work in tandem with other disorders.
Addiction disorders: When a patient is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it can lead to other mental health issues such as psychosis and depression. Treating this disorder is a complex and delicate process. Consequently, as a mental health nurse, you must deal with the detox, withdrawal, and the root of the addiction.
A psychiatric nurse may encounter patients with any number of mental illnesses on a given shift.
How do you become a psychiatric nurse?
Step 1. Finish a nursing program
The first step to becoming a psychiatric nurse involves earning an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). In addition, you may choose to volunteer at a mental health facility in order to gain insight into these disorders. This can help you gain insight into whether it’s the right field for you.
Last, It can also help you learn about what it’s like working with this demographic.
Step 2. Obtain your RN license
After you graduate from your nursing program, you must take and pass the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination). This test is necessary to become an RN. After passing the exam, you may apply to become a nurse.
Step 3. Gain experience
This step shouldn’t be overlooked. Though you can choose to apply as a psychiatric nurse right away, you should first gain experience as a general nurse.
In other words, this can help you decide if you don’t like psychiatric nursing. Also, it can give you valuable experience in another type of field.
Step 4. Obtain your certification in psychiatric nursing
Though you don’t have to become certified to practice as a psychiatric nurse, it is suggested. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers the credential. To become certified you need to meet the following requirements:
- Have an active RN license
- Two years minimum as a full-time RN
- 30 hours of continuing education in psych nursing within three years
- At least 2,000 hours in clinical psych nursing within three years
Step 5. Move up the psychiatric nursing ladder
If you desire to advance your skills as a psych nurse, you should consider becoming an advanced practice psychiatric nurse (APPN). You must have a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing to take the next step as an APPN.
Make sure that the school is accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) or the National League for Nursing (NLN). If you want a full list of programs, check the list on the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) webpage.
How much does a psychiatric nurse make?
Psychiatric nurses’ salaries depend on the level of education, experience, location, and size of the employer. ZipRecruiter reported in May 2019 that the annual wage for psychiatric nurses is $79,007 per year.
Psychiatric nurse practitioners earn about $105,658 per year, according to Payscale.
What is the job outlook?
In the United States, 1 in 5 people lives with a mental illness. Consequently, 1 in 20 are considered seriously mentally ill (SMI). There will always be a need for psychiatric nurses. Additionally, as the boomer generation ages, more and more nurses will be needed in the field. If you are considering a career in psychiatric nursing, we have you covered. Click below to sign up and find a job that fulfills all your desires.