A psychiatric nurse also known as a mental health nurse is one who is specially trained to care for individuals of all ages that suffer from mental illness or distress. The most popular illnesses to fall under this category are bipolar disorder, psychosis, depression and schizophrenia. Nurses committed to working in the area will receive further training in therapies and behaviors and may be able to help administer psychiatric medications. The knowledge and skill set needed in this field is very broad in scope and quite challenging.
A career as a psychiatric nurse must began with a degree as a registered nurse (RN) which usually takes three to four years to complete. To become a specialist in the mental health field you need to get either a master’s or doctoral degree, which can take another three to five years. After that, you can become more specialized within the field, and several states require this for you to be permitted to prescribe medications to patients.
Once you have chosen a job in the mental health field and completed the required educational level you can expect to make somewhere between $70,000 – $100,000 annually, depending on how specialized you are, what state you live in, and your bonus structure.
Psychiatric and mental health nurses can choose to work in a variety career paths in both hospitals and in the community. There are options to work in inpatient hospitals as well as outpatient hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. Some nurses will do home visitations for patients and make this their specialty. Working for courts has gained in popularity as forensic psychiatry is needed for those who may have committed crimes. Retirement communities often have psychiatric nurses on hand to deal with older patients who have dementia.
Some of the top nurses in the field have identified nine critical mental health aspects with the practicum.
The most important thing for a psychiatric nurse is to maintain a positive relationship with their patients. A nurse should be willing and able to engage with their patients in a way that will empower them to rely on their own inner resources. As with other specialty areas of nursing, psychiatric mental health nursing relies on nursing models and care plans to treat the whole person.
In psychiatric care, a nurse will need to work in two areas with their patients. They are:
Assessment: To asses a possible mental health patient you will need information such as whether or not they have a regular sleep cycle, the ability to reason, difficulty remembering, if they eating a balanced diet, and whether they lack interest in things they used to care a lot about?
When you are psychiatric nurse you will need to know a great deal about an individual to be able to treat them, and this is not easy. You will need to collect objective information regarding how they feel, behave and function to know what therapies, medications or interventions might be the best possible treatment for them.
Interventions: This can be separated into different categories, all of which fall under physical, biological or spiritual. Determining the intervention category will help determine the treatment that will be administered like medication, electroconvulsive therapy or developing their spiritual purpose through mediation and prayer.
Before entering the mental health field and deciding to be a psychiatric nurse there are many things to consider. You have to be willing to spend at least eight years going to school to be certified, you must be willing to work with patients that are non-compliant and extremely challenging and that will lie to you or even refuse treatment. Being prepared for the industry is the key to being successful within it. The field of mental health can be one of the hardest nursing jobs but it can also bring you the greatest joy.