Psychiatric Nurse

Near the end of 19th century, the need for psychiatric mental health nursing arises. It was believed during these times that hospitals should begin to cater nursing care to mentally ill clients. Since the concept of psychiatric-mental health was incorporated into the nursing program, the practice of psychiatry in this field has come along the way. With the expansion of the industry, the need for specific services developed in the health care arena. Hence, the role of nurses specializing in psychiatry swelled out.

How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse?

Psychiatric nurses are registered nurses who provide rich mental health services to patients. Responsible for providing care for people with sever mental disorders, these professionals may care patients in the comfort of their homes, agency offices or at community areas. To become a psychiatric nurse the following are needed:

  • Bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). To earn this degree, one should be enrolled in a 4-year nursing education program in an accredited college or university. There is also a three-year program for a diploma in nursing which is hospital based. However, a bachelor’s or master’s degree can get someone to receive a higher salary or specialized position than the associate’s program or three-year course.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN test. To practice psychiatry in the clinical field of nursing, one should hold a title of being a registered nurse. The only prerequisite in taking this examination is to complete an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s program in nursing.
  • Knowledge required in a psychiatric-mental health nurse are listed below:
    1. Theories of mental health and illnesses in biology and psychology
    2. Substance abuse
    3. Ways of caring for highly-risk individuals
    4. Therapeutic communication
    5. Implications of the different cultural and spiritual beliefs and practices in nursing care
    6. Family dynamics
    7. Psychopharmacology
    8. Legalities in practicing psychiatric nursing care
    9. Appropriate documentation
  • Although the role of a psychiatric nurse is similar to a registered nurse or caregiver, special skills are necessary to effectively work in this field of nursing. These skills are as follow:
    1. Thorough biopsychosocial assessment
    2. Collaboration with other members of health care team
    3. Identification of significant resources for clients and families and coordinating them accordingly
    4. Utilization of diagnostic classification system in psychiatric nursing
    5. Therapeutic use of self
    6. Administration of psychopharmacologic medications and monitoring for adverse reactions and side effects

In addition to the listed items, self-awareness and self-understanding are important attributes a nurse must have to be fit in the performance of a psychiatric nurse’s function.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Psychiatric Nurse

With the expanded need on psychiatric nursing services, functions and duties of these personnel are also developing. Generally, these nurses assist, support and care mentally disable and emotionally disturbed clients. It is part of their duties to evaluate needs and develop a plan of care in based on the rising needs of clients. Whether working in a hospital, crisis center, mental health institution, military facility the specialized duties of a psychiatric nurse in general are:

  • Assessment. It is the duty of a psychiatric nurse to conduct a wide-ranging assessment to new clients. Data obtained should include both medical and mental health history. The nurse is then responsible to compile this information and evaluate it.
  • Formulating individualized nursing care plan (NCP). These professionals develop care plans for each patient. The plan of care specifically details treatment methods and goals. Prescribed medications, therapies and behavioral management methods are all listed in this document.
  • Client monitoring. Patients confined in a psychiatric facility are monitored carefully by nurses. The care plans are also evaluated throughout the treatment formulating recommendations for modification when necessary.
  • Crisis intervention. This is a critical role of a nurse. Oftentimes, the nursing personnel in a mental health unit may be asked to develop changes and improvements in the current system as part of a team.
  • Counseling and therapy. Completion of master’s in nursing program allows the nurse to conduct patient counseling by advancing to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Pursuing this career advancement legally allows a nurse to conduct therapy for patients.

In a variety of settings, psychiatric nurses work with mentally ill and emotionally disturbed individuals. The clinical practice of these specially trained nurses occurs at two levels where the responsibilities vary at each point. Generally, basic level psychiatric nurses carry out doctors’ orders. Working closely with individuals, families, groups and communities they formulate specific NCPs for patient and provide direct care. In addition, they also are assisting family members to deal and cope up with stress in caring for the patient. To sum it up, nurses in the basic level of psychiatric practice implement actions to promote and foster heath through:

  1. Dysfunction assessment.
  2. Promoting a therapeutic environment
  3. Complication prevention.
  4. Health teaching
  5. Counseling and case management

Nurses with master’s degree in Psychiatric-mental health nursing or have obtained a doctoral education have the privilege and authority to perform duties independently. Dubbed as Psychiatric-Mental Health clinical Nurse Specialist or Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners, advanced nurses are qualified to assess, diagnose and treat mentally disabled clients. What’s more? They can even prescribe medications and perform psychotherapy by themselves. Some nurse specialists deliver consultation services to staff in general medical settings.

Pay Scale

Depending on geographical location, a basic level psychiatric nurse can annually earn $25,000 to $47,000. Advanced positions offer a higher salary range of $50,000 to $70,000 yearly.

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Daisy Jane Antipuesto RN MN

Currently a Nursing Local Board Examination Reviewer. Subjects handled are Pediatric, Obstetric and Psychiatric Nursing. Previous work experiences include: Clinical instructor/lecturer, clinical coordinator (Level II), caregiver instructor/lecturer, NC2 examination reviewer and staff/clinic nurse. Areas of specialization: Emergency room, Orthopedic Ward and Delivery Room. Also an IELTS passer.

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