Psychiatric Nurse

What Is a Psychiatric Nurse?

Psychiatric-mental health nursing is a discipline that first developed in the late 19th century. Psychiatric nurses, sometimes referred to as behavioral health or mental health nurses, are nursing professionals who specialize in mental health, caring for patients with psychiatric disorders and mental illnesses like addiction, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, schizophrenia, psychosis, self-harm, and others. While some fail to consider mental illnesses as true medical conditions, they can often be more distressing than other medical conditions, and thus require a significant deal of emotional support, education, and therapy from experienced mental health professionals. Psychiatric nurses work alongside an interdisciplinary healthcare team which includes physicians, case managers, and social workers to help those who are suffering from psychiatric and mental illness to overcome the stigma associated with it so that they can live their best possible lives. Psychiatric nursing is best suited for individuals who are kind, empathetic, patient, but who aren't afraid to set boundaries when needed.

What Are Some Psychiatric Nurse Duties?

Tasks commonly carried out by psychiatric nurses include:

  • Design, implement, and assess treatment plans
  • Work with other members of the interdisciplinary healthcare team
  • Administer medication to patients and assess their responses
  • Monitor psychiatric patients closely
  • Recommend and connect patients with various programs and services
  • Instruct patients to develop healthy coping skills
  • Provide a therapeutic environment
  • Assist patients with self-care techniques and activities
  • Assess the mental health of patients
  • Referral patients to specialists as needed
  • Order, administer, and interpret diagnostic tests
  • Educate family members about a patient's mental condition and proposed care plan
  • Provide crisis intervention and counseling
  • Help patients set and achieve both short and long-term mental health goals
  • Lead therapeutic groups

Where Do Psychiatric Nurses Work?

Psychiatric nurses can find employment in a number of medical settings, wherever mental health services are provided. Common employers/workplaces include:

  • General hospitals
  • Psychiatric medical centers
  • VA hospitals
  • Private practices
  • Specialty psychiatric or substance abuse hospitals
  • Community mental health clinics
  • Addiction rehabilitation treatment centers
  • Outpatient treatment facilities
  • Correctional institutions
  • State and federal facilities for the criminally insane
  • Long-term care centers
  • Schools

How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse

If you're looking for an interesting and dynamic career path that encompasses both psychiatry and psychology within the rapidly expanding nursing sector, you may want to consider a career as a psychiatric nurse. To begin your journey toward this career, you will need the appropriate mix of nursing education and clinical experience in the field.

Step 1: Educational Requirements

Educational pathways toward psychiatric-mental health nursing careers will depend on the specific level of nursing care you would like to provide. Most psychiatric nurses, however, will finish an ADN or BSN program before they become a fully licensed RN and begin working in the field. Prior to becoming eligible for the American Nurses Credentialing Center's certification in psychiatric nursing, RNs will need a couple of years of clinical experience in a psychiatric setting and take some continuing education units in psychiatric nursing. Individuals who continue on to graduate school to receive a Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) can then advance their careers to become Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners.

Do Psychiatric Nurses Need an RN Degree?

Psychiatric nurse will need to possess an active and unencumbered RN license and have some clinical experience in the field in order to become certified in psychiatric-mental health nursing. This is a role suited for those with a BSN degree, though some facilities may consider ADN-educated RNs.

Step 2: Required Psychiatric Nurse Certifications/Credentials

Registered nursing seeking a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification can do so through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

To be eligible for Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification you must have the following:

  • An active and unencumbered RN license
  • Have at least two years of clinical experience as a full-time registered nurse
  • Have at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in psychiatric nursing within the previous three years
  • Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in psychiatric nursing within the previous three years

Psychiatric Nurses Jobs, Salary & Employment

Psychiatric nursing can be one of the most rewarding yet emotionally difficult specialty fields in nursing. In this patient-facing profession, psychiatric nurses can really help to make positive and lasting changes in patients' lives who deal with the unique challenges posed by mental illnesses. If you are an aspiring nurse who has excellent communication skills, emotional maturity, and the desire to make a long-lasting and positive impact on individuals and communities, psychiatric nursing would be an excellent career choice. As science and technology continue to advance and as we learn more about the brain and nervous system, psychiatric medicine and nursing is likely to take massive leaps forward.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - Well-honed interpersonal communication abilities, empathy and compassion, emotional maturity, problem-solving abilities, ability to counsel, non-judgmental, kindness, and critical thinking abilities
  • Job Outlook - The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment rates for RNs are going to increase by 16% between 2014 and 2024. Due to aging population, new advances in psychiatric treatments available along with advances in technology, the field of psychiatric nurses is likely to grow at a similar or even faster rate than the field of traditional nursing.

What Is the Average Salary of a Psychiatric Nurse?

According to PayScale, psychiatric nurses make an annual salary of about $61,000 on average. The exact amount a psychiatric nurse can earn will depend on factors like location (i.e. city and state), the amount of education, experience, and certifications they have, and the employing organization. The same factors will contribute to the contents of benefit packages that psychiatric nurses will receive from their employers. However, it's conventional for fully employed psychiatric nurses to receive medical, dental, vision, and prescription drug insurance coverage from their respective employers. Psychiatric nurses who are employed full time can also count on receiving a few weeks of annual paid time off, too.

How Much Do Psychiatric Nurses Make per Year?

  • $44,000 – $88,000 annually

How Much Do Psychiatric Nurses Make per Hour?

  • $30.02 average hourly wage

Psychiatric Nurse Resources