Many registered nurses are working in specialized fields, and psych nursing jobs offer another area of specialization that provides both job satisfaction and financial rewards. There are jobs available in general hospitals and psychiatric hospitals, as well as in psychiatrists’ offices and home-health agencies. Some psych nurses become certified and go into private practice where, depending on the state, they may even prescribe medications.
Why become a psychiatric nurse?
Psych nursing jobs are not easy, but has intrinsic rewards. Being a psychiatric nurse and interacting with patients can make a long-term difference in a patient’s life.
Sandra Thompson, who has been a psychiatric nurse for many years, finds it rewarding to connect with her patients and gain their trust. This makes them feel better about themselves and more likely to take their medications and follow their treatment plan.
Other psychiatric nurses say they have more independence and decision making authority than in other areas of nursing. Psychiatrist Beth Murphy agrees that psych nurses have a lot of input into how psychiatrists develop their treatment plan. Murphy states that the “psych nurse/psychiatrist relationship tends to be less hierarchical than other areas of nursing.”
What are the main duties of nurses with psych nursing jobs?
Psychiatric nurses assess the mental health of patients. They treat all types of mental disorders ranging from schizophrenia to depression. They may work with suicidal patients and those with drug addiction disorders. Psych nurses spend a lot of time with their patients in order to develop a trusting relationship and help their patients improve their daily lives.
Psychiatric nurses work with psychiatrists in developing individual treatment plans. They teach patients and their families the importance of complying with the treatment plan. They often work with families, so the family knows what to expect of their loved one who has a mental disorder and to learn how to react, if presented with certain situations.
Are there any special skills needed for psych nursing jobs?
A male psychiatric nurse with thirty years of experience, and another psychiatric nurse who has been in private practice for many years, have come up with their own recommendations for certain skills they feel a psych nurse should have.
• Be able to listen
• Be nonjudgmental
• Be decisive
• Tolerate ambiguity
• Be able to be calm even in the midst of chaos
• Learn how to diffuse situations that might become violent
• Enjoy the job
How do I become a certified psychiatric-mental health nurse?
All registered nurses can work in hospital psychiatric units and other psych nursing jobs without special psychiatric nursing certification. In fact, nurses can only become certified after they have a certain amount of experience working as a psychiatric nurse.
In order to become certified as a psychiatric-mental health nurse (PMHN) by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), nurses must pass a certification test. In order to be eligible to take the test, a registered nurse must meet the following criteria:
•Be a registered nurse in a state or territory of the U.S. or hold an equivalent license in another country that is recognized by a state licensing board in the U.S.
•Have two years of experience working as a registered nurse.
•Within the three years just prior to taking the test, the registered nurse must have a minimum of 2,000 hours working as a psychiatric and mental health nurse.
•Within three years just prior to taking the test, the registered nurse must have 30 hours of continuing education credits in psychiatric and mental health nursing.
Psych nursing job outlook and salary expectations
There is a nursing shortage in all areas of nursing. By 2020, a shortage of 800,000 nurses nationwide is expected. This is true of all areas of nursing, and it is expected that psych nursing jobs will continue to be easy to find. The salary depends on the state, as well as the level of education and experience. It ranges from an entry-level position of $32,500 to $90,000 for someone with five years of experience.