A psychiatric nurse is a nursing professional that works alongside psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. Together, this team of professionals treat patients suffering from a variety of psychiatric disorders.
Psychiatric nurses often encounter patients with both acute and chronic mental health problems. Types of psychiatric disorders include personality disorders, psycho-sexual disorders, psychosomatic disorders, and psychoneurosis. Specific examples include anxiety, depression, hysteria, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
As a psychiatric nurse, you’ll treat patients with organic and functional psychiatric disorders. Organic psychiatric disorders have specific causes, such as injuries or illnesses that damage the brain. The causes of functional disorders, on the other hand, are typically unknown. Patients suffering from functional psychiatric disorders have no known damage to their brain, yet still exhibit abnormal psychological symptoms.
Becoming a psychiatric nurse requires a blend of education and experience. The first step toward pursuing a career as a psychiatric nurse is obtaining the proper education. You will first need to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing. While doing so, you should also concentrate on taking several mental health courses. Once you earn your nursing degree, you will also need to pass the proper licensure examination to become a registered nurse or advanced practice nurse.
All psychiatric nurses must begin their careers with foundational, entry-level competencies and be able to demonstrate the capacity to practice in accordance with the professional standards of the regulatory body in their region. These skills and competencies generally include:
• A strong working and short-term memory
• Able prioritize and manage multiple caseloads
• Able to complete health history and mental status assessments
• Able to administer and assess the effects of medications
• Able to appropriately respond to observed behavioral changes
• Able to implement strategies to promote optimal mental health, physical health, and overall well-being of patients
• Aware of how to respond appropriately in situations that are stressful or that involve conflict
• Understand the complex relationships between mental, emotional, developmental, and physical health
• Understand the influence of social factors on mental and physical health and on illness
• Understand the psychosocial components of care, including the therapeutic relationship, interpersonal communications, and teamwork
Psychiatric/mental health Nurse practitioners(NPs) were among the top four most in-demand NP specialties in the first nine months of 2013, according to a November 2013 article on the HealtheCareers Network website. The other specialties in the top four were family medicine, general medicine and internal medicine. The ongoing shortage of primary care physicians -- which includes the psychiatrists who provide primary mental health care -- is probably increasing job openings for NPs, according to HealtheCareers Network. Physician recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins reports demand for adolescent and child psychiatric services is expected to increase by 100 percent between 1995 and 2020.
If you want to become a psychiatric nurse, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a psychiatric nurse:
• You have a desire to help prevent and treat psychosocial, mental or emotional disorders
• You have a desire to work in a dynamic, fast-paced and challenging healthcare environment
• You understand the complex relationships between mental, emotional, developmental, and physical health
• You understand the influence of social factors on mental and physical health and on illness
• You can manage your own behaviour well enough to provide safe, competent and ethical nursing care
• You are willing to be exposed to potentially violent and aggressive situations when working with patients