What is a Psychiatric Nurse?

Psychiatric NurseA psychiatric nurse is a health care professional that helps mentally ill patients. Psychiatric nurses are registered nurses (RNs) with additional specialized training. Below introduces psychiatric nursing and how to start your career within this field.

What Do Psychiatric Nurses Do?

Psychiatric nurses provide mental health care to patients in a variety of settings. For example, they work in nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals and mental health facilities. They work with both individuals and groups. They coordinate between administration, care givers, family members and other health care professionals. Similar to RNs, they work varying shifts and help to diagnose illnesses, provide treatment and maintain health care documentation. Specifically, they provide comprehensive assessments, manage a busy caseload and make recommendations for treatment and medication changes. However, unlike RNs, they may be required to physically restrain their patients and deal with mental health crises. Therefore, they must have excellent interpersonal, communication and organizational skills.

What are the Main Responsibilities of Psychiatric Nurses?

Psychiatric nurses are responsible to intervene, develop therapeutic relationships with patients and help them overcome problematic behaviors. Interventions commonly come in the form of psychiatric medication, such as injecting medication to control behaviors, or psycho-social interventions, which involve family therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Psychiatric nurses must cultivate a positive and professional therapeutic relationship with their clients through empathy, recognizing individuality, providing support, demonstrating respect and setting clear boundaries.

What are the Education Requirements?

According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA), psychiatric nurses are licensed registered nurses with an advanced degree. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the National League for Nursing accredit psychiatric nursing programs. There are three levels of psychiatric nursing. First, licensed practical nurses dispense medication and collect mental health care data. Second, registered psychiatric nurses perform assessments, provide therapy and engage in counseling. Third, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), or psychiatric-mental health nurses, have a master’s degree that allows them to diagnose, consult and provide evaluations. They must be trained in psychotherapy and psychopharmacology

The American Nurses Credentialing Center

The American Nurses Credentialing Center provides an accredited, competency based exam that test basic clinical skills and knowledge regarding mental health care for nurses. Three and a half hours are allowed to complete the 175 question test. The awarded credential for psychiatric nurses that pass the exam is referred to as Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC). This credential is valid for five years and can be renewed through providing proof of the appropriately obtain continuing education professional development courses. According to the AACN, the eligibility for the RN-BC specialty includes an active RN license, two years of full-time RN experience, 2,000 hours of clinical practice and 30 hours of continuing education related to mental health nursing.

How Much Does a Psychiatric Nurse Earn?

According to Payscale, the average salary for psychiatric nurses is approximately $27 an hour. The pay starts at $21 and peaks at $36, which works out to $45,000 to $78,000 a year. Interestingly enough, over 80 percent of psychiatric nurses are female and report a high level of job satisfaction.

Related Resource: Careers in Health Informatics

To review, psychiatric nurses work specifically with the mentally ill to intervene and help them manage their mental health problems. There are different levels of psychiatric nurses that provide specialized mental health care support to mentally ill patients. Being a psychiatric nurse is a rewarding career that combines the best aspects of health care and mental health care.