Nurse with great bedside manner talks to patient

Caring for the Mind: Life as a Psychiatric Nurse

Nurse with great bedside manner talks to patient

Not all nurses put on their scrubs and go to work to suture wounds, change IV’s, and treat physical illnesses. Nurses working in the psychiatric realm of medical care can often have very different experiences from their counterparts in the emergency room, and they are just as valuable. Right now, 1 in 5 Americans deals with a mental illness in a given year (1 in 25 deals with a serious mental illness), and suicide remains the 10th leading cause of death in the country. Mental health is a nationwide problem, one that demands a skilled, caring, and dedicated medical workforce to combat… and that’s where psychiatric nurses come in.

“While RN’s can specialize in anything, I opted for psychiatric nursing because I’m a ‘people-person’,” shares RN Jess C. of Colorado Springs. “I love the fact that psychiatry is not a cut and dried field – nothing is black and white when dealing with the human mind. The best part of my job is when I get to make a positive impact on a person and help them get their life back on track.”

As someone working with mental health patients, a day for a nurse like Jess tends to focus on two things: monitoring and safety. Psychiatrists can only do so much at one time, so they rely on their nurses to be their eyes and ears-which can mean assessing mental health needs, tracking progress on mental health regimens, and even providing counseling from time to time as patients work through their self-care activities. Nurses also play a big part in managing the “therapeutic environment” and making certain that everyone-patient or medical personnel-is safe.

“While I was in nursing school I fell in love with psychiatric nursing,” writes RN Dan J. of Baltimore. “It is extremely challenging trying to meet the needs of psychiatric patients, and I like teaching the patients and their families about their illnesses and medications. They depend on me to calm their fears and I like knowing that I help put them at ease. It’s very satisfying to know that I made a real difference in a patient’s life.”

While some states only require their psychiatric nurses to be RN’s (NCLEX-RN certified), some states require some additional certifications and training, but in a field that’s expected to grow 19% by the year 2022, that extra effort can add up to a lot of job security.

(For a more detailed look into a day in the life of a nurse working in the mental health field, RN Stephanie Dauphin describes exactly that in this video.)

While the current number of mental health issues in the country can feel overwhelming, the challenge isn’t insurmountable. New technology (such as Woebot) and new treatments are entering the field almost daily, but what will really turn the tide are the people who work one-on-one with these patients every day of the week. So if psychiatric nursing sounds like a good fit for you, don’t hesitate. There’s a long line of people out there just waiting to appreciate your help.

For more information on becoming a nurse or furthering your nursing education, Unitek College can help. Contact us here for more information on our upcoming classes and programs.