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Duties of a Psych Nurse

Career News March 17, 2013

What does a psychiatric nurse look like? A majority of people have an image in their mind of a stern looking older lady wearing the traditional white nurse’s uniform. She carries a ring of keys for all the locked cells on the floor. However, in reality there are no such common characteristics of a psych nurse. These professionals carry out many different duties and work in a variety of settings.

Where Psych Nurses Work

Psych nurses do not all work in mental health facilities. You will find them in mental health clinics, psychiatrists’ offices and other settings. They are part of the military medical personnel, and some of them even work on their own operating a practice or a counseling business. In this capacity, they provide advice to various groups in the community, businesses and lawmakers.

There are psych nurses that work in more than one location by dividing their work day between a hospital setting and another location. Employers consist of federal health organizations, nursing schools, home health agencies and long-term care facilities.

There are various types of specialties found in the field of psychiatric nursing. Some of these are:

•Child and adolescent psychiatry
•Adult mental health
•Geriatric services
•Substance abuse
•Forensic psychiatry
•Eating disorders

Quite often, a psych nurse may have certification in more than one area of specialty. In nursing school, nurses do a clinical rotation in a psychiatric or mental health facility. This is part of the program; so students can decide if being a psych nurse is the career path they wish to pursue.

Levels of Psychiatric Care

Level One

A psychiatric nurse is a registered nurse that has taken further training, which lead to advanced certification. The work load depends on the position, such as working with individual patients, families, groups or community services. A psych nurse assesses the mental health needs of a patient and makes a diagnosis based on their discovery.

Being a psych nurse means that you will be in a position where it would be your duty to plan, implement nursing care that patients require. At the basic level, this will involve planning intervention activities that promote health, evaluating dysfunctional behavior, and helping patients cope with various situations.

The primary duties of a psych nurse include:

•Promotion of good mental health
•Prevention of unhealthy ways of handling situations
•Promotion of self-care with patients
•Administer treatment

The qualifications needed for this job are an Associate’s degree, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or a diploma in nursing.

Level Two

It will only be nurses with advanced education and experience who are able to provide the second level of care in psychiatric nursing. They would be deemed as specialists and have either a Master or Doctoral degree that includes a supervisory role in a clinical practice. There are various types of sub-specialties that they can opt for within the realm of psychiatric nursing.

In this level of mental health care, nurses diagnose and treat different types of psychiatric conditions. They are known as psychotherapists, and in some states they are permitted to prescribe medication. Some of the places where they work include private agencies, mental health and correctional facilities, long-term and personal care homes, as well as schools and hospitals; they also work as consultants for companies and staff.

Challenges of Being a Psych Nurse

The challenges psych nurses discuss only underscore the breadth of their responsibilities. A nurse who was interviewed by the Boston Herald about her job had compared it to trying to be a calm island in the midst of a sea of chaos. It is one of the most misunderstood areas of nursing. Patients need to be treated with respect and dignity at all times, and for the most part a psych nurse sees them at their worst.

According to one psychiatric nurse, it takes a person with four key characteristic to succeed in this area of profession:

•Ability to not judge a person
•Be able to listen well
•Make decisions
•Enjoy the work

If you possess these qualities, you just may have what it takes to be a psych nurse.

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