For those who are thinking of becoming a psych nurse, there are a few different paths to take. First, with a one-year training program, you can become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Another option is to obtain a two or four-year degree in nursing, which will allow you to become a registered nurse (RN). Lastly, a master’s degree or doctorate in nursing with a specialization in psychiatry will allow you to become a mental health nurse practitioner.
Although working as a psych nurse can be a challenge and is not for everyone, a majority of those who become mental health nurses find their jobs extremely rewarding. Those who enjoy helping people in need and making a profound difference in their lives are good candidates for a career in mental health nursing. Some of the benefits of a career as a psychiatric nurse include the following:
Reward of Helping Others
Even though it doesn’t occur often, one of the big challenges associated with being a psych nurse is dealing with extremely difficult or possibly even violent patients. Although this is a big challenge, the training that mental health nurses receive prepares them to deal with difficult behavior from patients. Once you know how to deal with difficult patients, getting through to them and helping them achieve a better quality of life is a great reward.
All in all, your patients will be fairly cooperative people who are simply in need of a caring person to help them through their difficult times. A qualified nurse provides psychiatric patients with the things they need to improve their lives. Seeing a patient change and knowing that you played a significant role in that change is what makes being a nurse such a rewarding job.
Variety of Opportunities
As mentioned, an LPN or an RN can function as a mental health nurse. An LPN is qualified to provide medication as well as personal care, while an RN can also examine and consult patients and their families. LPNs, RNs, and mental health nurse practitioners can work for a variety of organizations including substance abuse programs, hospitals, mental health agencies, private mental health practices, assisted living facilities, and home health care agencies. The variety of places to work for makes psych nursing a good option for those who move around a lot or just need a change of scenery.
With the recent increase of more depressed individuals as well as the increase in the senior population, mental health nursing is a truly secure career field. The chance of being laid off because of downsizing is basically non-existent for a psych nurse because of these two factors.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for LPNs in 2011 was $42,000 and the average pay for RNs was $69,000. On the other hand, mental health nurse practitioners made anywhere from $61,000 to $110,000 per year in 2011. Pay increases in the mental health nursing field are a commonplace and come with experience and promotions.
The experiences you have as a psych nurse will teach you valuable life lessons. Angela Brooks, who has worked as a psychiatric nurse for over 20 years, wrote that although there were some things that she doesn’t particularly enjoy about her job, she wouldn’t trade the experiences she has had with patients for anything.
Brooks goes on to say that throughout the years, her patients “have shown [her] that we are all one step away from the [mental hospital] when life hands us more than we can bare.” These patient relationships have made her realize how fragile life is and have increased her compassion for her patients and people in general as a result.
Although, like with most jobs, there are some drawbacks to being a psychiatric nurse, most people employed in this field feel that the benefits far outweighs the downside. So if you are the type of person who enjoys helping others and wants a stable, high paying career, becoming a mental health nurse could just be the right career for you.