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Have you ever wondered what a psychiatric nurse does or are you interested in becoming one? Well, the truth is that what they do is not well understood by the general public. But if you have had some mental problems or was close to someone with the same then you know how indispensable these professionals are. They are trained to handle a myriad of mental illnesses affecting millions of people around the world.

As a patient or someone interested in the nursing psychiatry, there are things you should know. It helps to have some knowledge in such a field since it’s very crucial to the health sector.



Psychiatric Nurse Job Description

It is in everyone’s interest to know what this kind of a nurse does. Here is a brief of what someone specialized as nursing psychiatric would do on a daily basis:

  • Intervening in crisis and offering counselling. Most times mental conditions are traumatic and they will need professional intervention for the patient and family to handle it. A nursing practitioner comes in at such a time to offer the needed help and directions.
  • Managing therapeutic environments at the place of work. Recuperating patients will need an ample environment if they have the chance to get back to good health. This nurse has the duty to ensure that kind of environment is available at the nursing institution they work.
  • Monitor and administer treatments. The progress of patients will determine whether the kind of treatment chosen is working or not. Psychiatric nurses keep an eye on the progress of medication and when needed offer a change of treatment as necessitated by the prevailing conditions.
  • Assessment of mental health needs. Before someone is put under mental medication, a psychiatric professional has to assess him/her and give the way forward.
  • Be part of the nursing team to develop nursing care plans. Their experience and education make them valuable members of the nursing fraternity and their input is sought when developing care plans.
  • Linking patients and families to effective health care providers. They know where mental patients can get the best treatment. They help families to access the best facilities for their loved ones.
  • Keeping medical documents and records. They ensure that patients’ records are safe for future references. Such records are crucial to establishing the history of illness and thus lead to future success in treating such people.
  • Consulting with psychologists, psychiatrists and physicians to determine the best course of action for a particular medical case.

This list is not exhaustive of what psychiatric nurses do, it may vary from one institution to another but the deviation is not far from what you have here.

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How to Become a Psychiatric Nursing Professional


There is a long way before you become a psychiatric nursing professional. There is the education bit and getting the licence of practice. Here is what it takes to be a qualified nurse in the psychiatric field:

  • Education: this is an advanced nursing portfolio and you should have a bachelor’s degree in nursing. You will undertake both class and practical lessons associated with the nursing profession. You will later learn of the various areas of specialization you can choose as you advance in your education. You can also go for a bridging course if you have an associate’s degree. In some colleges and schools, those with a degree in another field undertake an accelerated nursing degree and you can choose the psychiatric path. It is advisable that you choose an accredited school. To help in this, both the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) have online directorates to search for appropriate schools. Besides, ensure that the school you choose is approved by the state board of nursing.
  • Training: there is a threshold of hours of training that you should have under your belt before you are qualified as a nurse in psychiatry. By the time you sit for the RN-BC exam you should have clocked 2,000 hours of hands-on practice in a mental care institution for the past 3 years. You should also have 2 years’ experience as a full-time registered nurse (RN).
  • Getting licensed and certified: you must be certified by the board of the state you are working as a nurse. Each state has its own criteria of certification but what cuts through all the states is licensing of nurses. You must sit and pass National Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to be licensed as a nurse.
  • Advancing in capacity/position: there is always a room for advancement and you have to further your education. Psychiatric nurses who wanted to become administrators or managers should take master’s degree. You should also show exemplary leadership skills before you get the nod to earn a leadership position.

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Qualities of Psychiatric Nurses

Beyond the nursing education and training, you will need other personal qualities to be a successful nurse in this field. Here are soft attributes that will make you a better candidate in this choice of career:

  • Ability to work in collaborative situations. Most of the times you will have to work in a team and this will require skills to deal with others for a common goal.
  • Excellent intervention and communication skills. More often, patients will be brought to you in serious conditions. Your intervention skills will come in handy in helping such patients. Your communication skills will help in handling tense situations and keeping patients and their family at ease as you take care of the situation.
  • Passion in working with behavioral and mental disorders. These will be your daily cases to deal with. You have to be someone who is interested in them to deal with such disorders and your time at work will be well spent.
  • Impeccable judgement skills. The life of a patient is at your hands and any erroneous decision will be disastrous. You have to be someone who makes the right diagnosis and offers the most appropriate treatment.
  • Compassionate to patients and their families. It is not an easy task to deal with mental disorders. They are critical and a compassionate nurse will be a lot of help.

You are now privy to the information about what a psychiatric nurse does. You also know what it takes to become one. What remains are the nitty gritties like salaries, specialization and what the future has in store for you if you choose this career path. For starters, this is a good career choice as you will see in all the information provided here.

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Psychiatric Nurse Salary

It is true that nursing is among the best professions not only in the US but also the world over. This easily explains why many students, as well as professionals, prefer a career in nursing. Before getting to the actual figures earned by psychiatric nurses in an hour or yearly, let’s look at the factors that are used to set their salaries:

  • Education: the higher education qualification you have the higher you will earn per hour and annually. A nursing psychiatry with bachelor’s degree in nursing will earn less than a colleague with masters’ or PhD.
  • Experience: there are those who have been in the profession for years and have garnered experience that can be relied on. These individuals get heftier pay than their junior colleagues who have just joined the profession. For instance, a fresh graduate will get less as compared to someone who has 5 or 10 years of practice.
  • Place and location of work: depending on the institution you will find a nursing job, your salary will be dictated by the set policies. There are institutions that have strictly set austerity measures and hence your salary will be at the threshold level. What you earn will also be affected by the state where you have found the job. For instance, California, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska are the best places to work as a nursing professional. On the other hand, the worst paid nurses are in the states of Louisiana, West Virginia, Georgia and Kentucky.

Those are the determinants of the salary you will receive at the end of the day as a nurse psychiatric. So, what exact figures should be hoping to take home at the end of the day?

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a registered nurse (under which a psychiatric falls) gets a minimum of $45,880 and a maximum of $98,880 per year. Of course, the above-discussed factors will come into play when determining your final paycheck. In 2007, psychiatric nurses took home a median annual salary of $62,480. That sum has grown over the years and in 2013 it stood at $68,910. However, in 2013, there are states that paid nurses way better than the median salaries as posted by BLS. California paid RNs an annual salary of $96,980, followed by Hawaii, Massachusetts, Alaska, and Oregon that paid annual salaries of $85,380, $83,720, $83,640, and $80,440 respectively. According to payscale, a level-entry nursing psychiatric makes $25 each hour while those on the upper tier make $44 per hour. This is way above most of the other nursing specializations.

Areas of Specialization

There are areas of specialization in which psychiatric nurses can choose to be their specific area of knowledge. This does not mean that you cannot perform the general duties that may come your way but it means that this is the area where you have deep knowledge. The most popular areas of specialization include:

  • Forensic nurses: when accidents and other injury-causing incidents happen, forensic nurses should be at the scene to help with information that would later be crucial to treating victims. They help determine the kind of treatment that someone needs and they also recommend on health care facilities where mental patients can get the best care.
  • Adolescent and child specialist: such a nurse will be expected to deal with mental and behavioral cases of children and those in their adolescence. They should come up with care plans to ensure that this lot receives the best attention in case of mental problems.
  • Substance abuse nurses: as you know, substance abuse will lead to mental problems. When it gets chronic, victims will need care that will help them get back to their health. Nurses specialized in this niche will prescribe the best medication and a change of behavior. They help those affected stop using drugs and other harmful substances.
  • Eating disorders: some other mental disorders will affect eating habits of people. They will need a specialist to help them eat. This is a very crucial aspect in helping mental patients get back to their health.
  • Consultation nurses: as one advances their experience and education in psychiatric nursing, their expertise will be sought from time to time. As said earlier, nursing is a collaborative profession and here it is where that comes to a full meaning.

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Where to Work

It would be right to say that nurses have massive job opportunities since both health and non-health institutions need them. So, where would you work as a nursing psychiatric?

  • Hospitals: this is the number one of nursing professionals in the US. Approximately 25-30% of the entire US nurse population works in hospitals both private and public.
  • Mental health centers: these are institutions specifically aiming at mental illnesses. This is where psychiatric nurses would find a job directly related to their specialization.
  • Schools: learning institutions will need the services of nurses and such one they will invest is in a psychiatrist nurse.
  • Correctional facilities: incarceration does not deny prisoners the right to medical care. They will still need nurses to attend to their needs.

Job Outlook

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Generally looking at the nursing field, job growth and the industry’s expansion is inevitable. The BLS cited credible studies that in overall, nursing careers will see a growth of 22% between 2012 and 2022. By 2013, there were 2,661,890 RNs so it means that by 2022 there will be approximately 0.5 million vacancies for new nurses. The growth and expansion do not include those who retire each year so the figures for vacancies will be higher than what is projected here. For anyone who wants to get a job right after graduating, nursing is such an attractive option. The projected growth has been witnessed so far and everything points to a bright future for those seeking nursing jobs.

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You already have made up your mind whether to become a psychiatric nurse or not but there are a few things you should know to help you understand the profession better:

Things you should know about psychiatric nurse job:

  • It is a rewarding career: all the nursing fields are rewarding but psychiatric nursing is way better than most of the other options. You will have the independence to make your decisions and that is something other nurses would want in their daily duties. As you have seen, these nurses earn handsome salaries thus they are financially independent.
  • Your communication skills, patience and flexibility will be tested: to be honest, this is a high pressure working environment. Things will be calm this moment but the next one will feel like the world is turning upside down. You have to adapt to these abrupt changes and you will make a good profession. The good thing is that your skills will be strengthened every day and you will become a better professional and person each day.
  • Nursing psychiatric are different from general psychiatric, psychologists and social workers: for someone who does not have a deeper understanding of the nursing psychiatric specialty, it is easy to confuse them with these other closely related areas and nursing professionals. They overlap in some duties but they are as different as day is from the night. The major difference is that a nurse psychiatric can prescribe medication while the others cannot.
  • You need balance: there is a strong temptation to become too attached to the patients. They are people who need special care and your compassion and human pity may take over your emotions. However, you should draw a line between your duties and the human compassion. It is right to feel pity for your patients giving in to such will not do any good to the patients and you.
  • It gives you the experience to become a better caregiver: as you deal with mental conditions, you will notice that life is fragile. It teaches on how better to handle stressing situations and you become as better professional. The experience lasts forever.

Is This a Worthwhile Career Path?

What would you want in a career: good money, independence at the work place and something that makes you better every day? If this is you then this is a career path that you should not think twice about taking it. As credible statistics show, the field is expanding in terms of vacancies. You will not search for a job for long and that is one thing that many students would look for as they choose their nursing course. Everything points to a successful career if you become a nursing psychiatric so be assured of a fulfilling profession if you make the choice.

Now you know all there is about a psychiatric nurse. You know what you need to become one, where to get jobs and where to work. It is a rewarding career path as long as this is your passion. Welcome to the world of nursing and regularly visit this website for latest update about this prestigious profession.

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