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Psych Nurse: Job Duties and Responsibilities

Job Descriptions July 21, 2013

As a specialized field within the nursing profession, psychiatric nursing involves some duties that overlap with those of other nursing disciplines. But the relationship with patients is more highly developed in psychiatric nursing. Most psych nurses cite that relationship, and the heightened people skills it presupposes as an essential motivating factor.

Educational Factors

Psych nurses get their start with a nursing degree (as an associate or Bachelor of Science in Nursing) and go on to get licensed as a registered nurse. At that point, they can qualify for work in psychiatric hospitals and other mental health facilities, most of which offer on-the-job training. A resume reflecting continuing education in mental health care will, however, improve the odds of securing a psych nursing job. Continuing education includes specialized college courses and temporary rotations to hospital psych wards.

A master’s degree in psychiatric nursing is required to become a clinical nurse specialist in psychiatry or a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Nurses with such training often have the authority to establish a private practice. They may be able to prescribe medication. They may have hospital admitting privileges.

Throughout their careers, psych nurses remain highly focused on education. One of their key responsibilities is educating patients and their patients’ families about the specifics of the given mental illness, about coping strategies, medication regimens and side effects.

Job Venues

The duties of a psych nurse will vary somewhat, depending on where the patient is receiving treatment. Here are some typical venues:

•In-patient psychiatric ward of a general hospital
•Hospital emergency room (for psych evaluations of emergent care patients)
•Psychiatric hospital (inpatient and outpatient facilities)
•Community-run mental health centers
•The patient’s home, whether a halfway house or private residence (psychiatric home care)
•Substance abuse facility (inpatient and outpatient)
•Nursing home
•School
•Primary care clinic (to offer psych evaluation and follow-up counseling)
•Marital and family counseling center

Items on Most Psych Nurse Job Descriptions

Like most nurses, a psych nurse (unless holding an advanced degree and having a private practice) works in a collaborative atmosphere. He or she may be the first health care professional a patient sees. By taking a complete medical history (from either the patient himself or from loved ones) and by observing the patient with a trained eye, the psych nurse plays an important role in reaching the initial diagnosis.

After the supervising psychiatrist or psychologist makes a formal diagnosis and drafts a treatment plan, the psych nurse helps implement that plan, which may involve participating in group therapy sessions. A psych nurse will administer any medication outlined in that treatment plan and report back to the supervising physician on the patient’s overall progress.

Helping the patient meet his or her daily needs is another responsibility. In an inpatient facility, that may mean overseeing the patient’s diet and hygiene. In an outpatient setting, the psych nurse may teach the patient how to manage the stressful situations that pop up in everyday life. Or, the psych nurse may point the patient to local support groups for specific mental illnesses.

The psych nurse is far more than a cog in a larger health care wheel. He or she typically spends more time with patients than the supervising physician does. As a result, psych nurses are often in a better position to adjust treatment to a patient’s likely compliance level, to spot evidence of de-compensation (regression) in a timely fashion, to identify side effects of medication and to serve as the patient’s advocate. In the latter capacity, for example, a psych nurse may be the first to pick up on evidence of abuse at home or even in a treatment facility.

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Showing schools in your area

5 Program(s) Found
  • Liberty University provides a worldclass education from a christ-centered worldview
  • 100% online programs at associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels
  • No standardized testing if student meets admission requirements
  • Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • 87% of Liberty University students receive some form of financial aid
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Program(s) Found
  • Customize your coursework - select a concentration or specialization to best suit your individual and career goals.
  • Learn from renowned faculty with real-world experience and expertise in their respective fields.
  • Experience dynamic and engaging multimedia content, allowing you to engage in real-time conversation while learning to express ideas succinctly and confidently to a diverse group of peers.
  • Receive robust, comprehensive career support services to help you define career goals and leverage your new degree to the fullest.
Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
3 Program(s) Found
  • Averett University is a top-ranked, fully-accredited institution that offers students over 30 undergraduate majors, minors and special programs, and 5 master's programs.
  • Accelerated programs designed for convenience: choose from weekly evening courses at one of Averett's Virginia locations or study online and on your own time.
  • Averett University was named one of Virginia’s top colleges for return on investment, and their average scholarship package lowers the cost of attendance further by almost 40%.
  • Averett offers students learning experiences that mirror real-life situations. This means you can put today's lesson to the test during tomorrow’s workday.
  • Averett University's 12:1 student-professor ratio makes your education a collaborative endeavor based on close relationships between students and faculty.
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