Psychiatric Nurse

What Does a Psychiatric Nurse Do?

A psychiatric nurse is, as the name implies, a nurse who specializes in treating patients with psychiatric disorders and conditions. Psychiatric nurses treat patients of all ages and commonly deal with those who have been diagnosed with conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and psychosis. Psychiatric nurses will often administer medication, teach patients and their loved ones how to deal with the behavioral challenges inherent in patients suffering from mental disturbance, and they also often deal with such behavioral challenges themselves. In order to deal with such challenges, psychiatric nurses receive additional training in behavioral therapy. These challenges are what make psychiatric nursing one of the most difficult nursing fields, but also one of the most rewarding. Since almost all mental illnesses are assessed and diagnosed through a patient’s subjective, reported feelings and behaviors, a psychiatric nurse must be particularly adept at understanding and empathizing with a variety of people from all walks of life.

How Can I Become a Psychiatric Nurse?

Becoming a psychiatric nurse takes education, specialized training, and hands-on experience. As with most nursing roles, an aspiring psychiatric nurse must enroll in an accredited two- or four-year nursing program. While a two-year associate’s degree is sufficient, a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing opens up more employment opportunities. A three-year, hospital based diploma program is also another option. Upon graduation, students take an exam in order to receive the title of registered nurse (RN). From this point, one can apply to entry-level nursing positions in psychiatric hospitals or other mental health facilities. There are a variety of ways for psychiatric nurses to advance in their field. One way is to become an APRN, which is an advanced RN, after which you can specialize in a particular field of psychiatric nursing, like adolescent mental health or substance abuse. These specialty positions are attained through experience and additional training.

What Is the Career and Salary Outlook For a Psychiatric Nurse?

According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, psychiatric nurses can expect to make about $35-$40,000 per year as entry-level nurses, depending on location. Advanced Practice RNs can earn $60,000 or more, while nurse executives can make upwards of $100,000 per year. Other factors affecting salary include level of education, hospital size and geographic location, and years of experience. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the overall employment outlook for psychiatric nurses is excellent. Between 2008 and 2018, the field is expected to grow by about 18%, which is faster than average growth compared to all other occupations. As the health care system overall suffers from the strain of a larger elderly population, the demand for psychiatric nurses will continue to increase. Moreover, because the physical and emotional demands of psychiatric nursing are so high, relatively few want to enter this field. This means that if you think psychiatric nursing is for you, you should have no problem finding steady and rewarding employment.