The human mind is both fascinating and complicated. It controls every aspect our lives, from movements to intelligence to emotions. However, some individuals may experience problems with their minds, which can be quite debilitating.

Psychiatric disorders occur when individuals exhibit a pattern of unusual behaviors that may either impair their ability to function in their lives. Some psychological disorders may even cause a person to make unhealthy or drastic decisions that can lead to injury or even illegal activity.

Unfortunately, psychiatric disorders are more common than many people may realize. Because these disorders can be disabling and dangerous, proper treatment for them is very important. Psychiatric nurses are some of the mental health professionals that psychiatric patients will see frequently.

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What is a Psychiatric Nurse?
What do Psychiatric Nurses Do?
Where do Psychiatric Nurses Work?
How do I Become a Psychiatric Nurse?

What is a Psychiatric Nurse?

A psychiatric nurse is a nursing professional that works alongside psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. Together, this team of professionals treat patients suffering from a variety of psychiatric disorders.

Psychiatric nurses often encounter patients with both acute and chronic mental health problems. Types of psychiatric disorders include personality disorders, psycho-sexual disorders, psychosomatic disorders, and psychoneurosis. Specific examples include anxiety, depression, hysteria, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

As a psychiatric nurse, you’ll treat patients with organic and functional psychiatric disorders. Organic psychiatric disorders have specific causes, such as injuries or illnesses that damage the brain. The causes of functional disorders, on the other hand, are typically unknown. Patients suffering from functional psychiatric disorders have no known damage to their brain, yet still exhibit abnormal psychological symptoms.

If you choose to become a psychiatric nurse, you can also choose to concentrate in a sub-specialty. For instance, you can choose to treat certain types of patients, like children or elderly patients, or specific disorders, like eating disorders or depression. A psychiatric nurse can also specialize in treating individuals, groups, or families.

Although being a psychiatric nurse is rewarding, it can also be somewhat challenging as well. The erratic behavior of some of your patients could make this job difficult or even dangerous at times.

What do Psychiatric Nurses Do?

A psychiatric cares for psychiatric patients that require both short and long-term care. Psychiatric nurses also play an instrumental role in the psychological assessment of patients, for instance. They may assist in diagnosing patients by assessing their behaviors, symptoms, and complaints.

As a psychiatric nurse, you will also help develop and follow care plans for your patients. Psychiatric care plans often involve helping patients set and achieve long and short-term goals. Depending on the type of disorder a patient is suffering from, a psychiatric nurse may also be required to lead therapy sessions and assist patients with taking medications and behavior management techniques.

Patient monitoring is another very important responsibility of a psychiatric nurse. Each patients’ progress and behavior needs to watched closely to ensure that their care plan and treatment is effective. Psychiatric nurses are often responsible for reporting any changes to psychiatrists and possibly suggesting alternative treatment options.

Because some patients may be mentally or emotionally unstable, psychiatric nurses must also be prepared to participate in crisis interventions. Patients suffering from extreme depressive or psychotic disorders may require crisis interventions, as do suicidal patients. These interventions should be done as soon as possible to minimize physical injury as well as psychological trauma.

Psychiatric nurses will also usually work with the family members of their patients. They will help them understand their loved ones’ disorders as well as how to live with and care for them.

Where do Psychiatric Nurses Work?

Generally, psychiatric nurses can find employment in psychiatrist offices and mental health clinics. Hospitals, community health centers, long-term care centers, and correctional institutions might also hire psychiatric nurses as well.

How do I Become a Psychiatric Nurse?

Becoming a psychiatric nurse requires a blend of education and experience. The first step toward pursuing a career as a psychiatric nurse is obtaining the proper education. You will first need to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing. While doing so, you should also concentrate on taking several mental health courses. Once you earn your nursing degree, you will also need to pass the proper licensure examination to become a registered nurse or advanced practice nurse.

Below is the educational path for a Psychiatric Nurse (lowest to highest level of education)

Educational TrackSchool ProgramsAverage Education LengthChoosing Online or Campus
Earn a Bachelors DegreeView Programs4 Years Online or Campus
Earn a MSN DegreeView Programs2 Additional YearsOnline or Campus
Earn a PHD or DNPView Programs2-4 Additional YearsOnline or Campus

You must also have a minimum of two years experience as a registered nurse to become a certified psychiatric nurse. You should also have a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in a mental health setting and 30 hours of continuing education in mental health within the three years prior to taking the certification examination.