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Psychiatric Nurse Responsibilities and Job Duties

Job Descriptions April 12, 2013

Psychiatric nursing is a specialized field. Entering in this field requires a nursing degree, either an associate’s or a Bachelor of Science and becoming licensed as a registered nurse. With these credentials, a prospective psychiatric nurse is eligible to receive on the job training in a mental health facility or psychiatric hospital. However, a master’s degree is required to become a psychiatric nurse specialist or practitioner.

Educational Prerequisites

Psychiatric nurses are knowledgeable in a wide range of mental disorders, from depression to psychosis. They also have the flexibility to work in a variety of settings. A psychiatric nurse may work with patients in their private homes, a community health care center, in hospital outpatient service or a secure residential unit. A psychiatric nurse may choose to specialize in working with young children, the elderly, or with a specific disorder.

The role of a psychiatric nurse is to assist the patient in recovering from a mental illness or in finding ways for the patient to cope with it. The most important duty of the psychiatric nurse is to maintain a positive attitude and provide a therapeutic relationship with the patient, building the patient’s self-confidence and desire to overcome the mental handicap. Commonly used psychotherapy interventions include cognitive behavior therapy and family therapy.

Another therapy that may be used is spiritual interventions when a patient has reached a spiritual crisis. The purpose of the intervention is to give the patient a sense of hope, meaning and fulfillment. Spiritual interventions involve more of being there for a person, providing empathy, understanding and support, than it does in trying to solve a particular problem. It is a process of helping the patient work through self-doubts, pain and despair.

Some psychiatric patients have violent episodes. Psychiatric nurses are trained to identify the risk factors in a patient’s illness and assess when the patient may be at risk to self or to others. They learn to respond to distressed patients calmly, without showing distress, themselves.

Job Description of a Psych Nurse

The nurse is responsible for the well-being of the patient’s physical needs, such as hygiene and proper diet, as well as mental duress. Other duties include ensuring the correct administration of medications, monitoring the results of medicated and non-medicated treatments, preparing care plans, and working with the families of the patients. As part of behavior treatment, the psychiatric nurse may encourage patient activities that reflect the patient’s interests. This could include sports, drama, hobbies or the arts and crafts.

The psychiatric nurse works with staff members to organize social events that will help build the patient’s social skills. Other socialization processes include participation in group therapy, either individually or with other health professionals, and in outpatient care.

It takes sensitivity and understanding to become an effective psychiatric nurse. Patients in need of psychiatric therapy may be suffering from a debilitating disease, as well as a mental disorder. Whenever possible, the psychiatric nurse draws the family in, educating the family on the patient’s mental illness, and ways of helping them cope and add to a successful therapy. The psychiatric nurse seeks to empower the patient in a collaborative away, through positive reinforcement and by encouraging the patient to draw upon his or her own internal resources. The psychiatric nurse does not view the patient’s condition as permanent, but one where recovery is the ultimate goal.

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