Psych Nurse Job Overview

If you want to learn more about how to become a psych nurse – including what the salary is and how to find jobs – this guide is for you.

Psychiatric and mental health nursing is a completely different job than other nursing specialties. From the types of patients you care for to places you work, it’s not like working in a typical hospital – but it is still just as rewarding.

A very important thing to know is that all psychiatric nurses are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses or APRNs. Other types of APRNs include nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners.

If this is something you dream of doing, then keep reading. This guide will tell you all about it – how much they make and what they do – so you can make a better decision.

Psych Nurse Job Guide

Due to the types of patients they work with, a psych nurse requires you to be strong mentally and be able to establish emotional boundaries while at work and home. This is a very draining and emotionally exhausting job. Behavioral health nurses specialize in caring for patients that receive treatment for a variety of things, including mental illnesses, addiction, eating disorders, or even substance abuse.

Since these nurses care for not just the physical part of the patient but the emotional part too, it requires someone with a lot of emotional intelligence and strength. This job is definitely not for everyone. If you are curious about going after it, keep reading.

Where Do Psych Nurses Work?

Psych nurses work anywhere that mental health is practiced. This can include hospitals, mental health facilities, and private practices. Other common places of employment for this job includes community clinics, correctional facilities, long-term care facilities, and schools.

Psych Nurse Salary

How much they make depends on the employer and location. Some states pay more than others and some facilities pay more than others. Other things that can affect how much they make include your level of education and experience.

Generally, the average salary of a psychiatric nurse is about $57,000 in the USA. It ranges from $45,000 up to $80,000.

Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing Responsibilities

The duties and responsibilities will change depending on where you are working. This article from Minority Nurse shows you what a typical day for a nurse at a mental health hospital is like.

At the most basic level, this job requires nurses to care for patients with a huge spectrum of mental health disorders and diagnoses. Even so, there are still some common things all psych nurses do.

They help with assessing and diagnosing patients who have a variety of mental healthy and behavioral problems. They also monitor symptoms and behaviors and provide either short or long-term care.

They also assist in developing care plans for psychiatric patients and must educate and work with the patient’s family to make sure they will continue with proper care at home.

Mental Health Nurse Roles

Most mental healthy nurses have the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Assess mental health symptoms
  • Monitor patients
  • Educate family members about a care plan for the patient
  • Work with psychiatric doctors and mental health specialists
  • Connect patients with appropriate programs and services
  • Assist patients with medications

Psychiatric Nursing Qualifications

If you think you want this job someday, you should take some mental health courses while you are in nursing school. After you become an RN, it’s a good idea to work in a traditional health care setting first, to gain more experience. Some of the best general areas that will prepare you for mental health nursing are geriatric care or child/teen mental health.

To become a psych nurse, you need an active RN license. Beyond that, it will help if you have a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification – or RN-BC. To be eligible for this certification, you need:

  • 2 years experience as a full-time RN
  • Minimum 2,000 hours clinical practice in psychiatric-mental health nursing within the last 3 years
  • Complete 30 hours of continuing education in psychiatric-mental health nursing within the last 3 years

Final Thoughts

The role of a psych nurse is definitely not for everyone. This is a really hard job that requires lots of compassion and empathy mixed with decision-making abilities and excellent communication skills. It is a specialized job that requires nurses to know about mental health and medications and community services for the patient’s families. If you are considering making this your career, spend time volunteering as much as you can.

More Nursing Jobs To Consider

Here are even more nursing jobs you can consider as you look for a specialty.

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