Mental Health Nurse


Mental health is one of the fastest growing fields in health care today. With an increase in mental health nursing degrees being obtained, the need for these specialized health care workers in the field is being met. The needs of mental health patients are being given more specialized care today to help address the prevalent mental health problems.

Mental Health Nurse Education Requirements

Becoming a mental health nurse requires a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing in addition to a bachelor’s in nursing and being licensed as a registered nurse. Because mental health patients’ needs are very different from those in other fields of physical only ailments, it requires a master’s degree to work in these mental health clinics. Having this additional education helps nurses to deeper understand the factors involved in their care.

Once a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing has been obtained, the next step is to get a license after passing an examination. Psychiatric mental health nurses with a master’s degree command a higher salary than nurses in other fields. Additionally, depending on the state’s requirements, mental health nurses are required to continually take periodic exams and also participate in postgraduate classes as part of their continuing education requirements.

Mental Health Nurse Responsibilities & Job Description

Individuals with mental health nursing degrees are qualified to handle a variety of responsibilities within their field. In addition to mental illness, mental health nurses can also treat substance abuse issues. Below is a list of responsibilities that are typically handled by these nurses:

–        Performing physical health examinations

–        Understanding medical history (including mental especially)

–        Ordering and giving diagnostic tests for specific concerns

–        Assist patients with daily activities such as bathing, recreational activities, eating and spiritual care

–        Prescribing treatment and therapy options specifically designed for each patient

–        Work with a team of doctors, therapists, social workers, and mental health nurses to deliver specially designed treatment

–        Helping special needs patients manage their acute care and chronic illness

–        Providing patient education in class settings or one on one, as well as with family members

Mental Health Nurse Areas of Specialty & Scope of Practice

Within all the different responsibilities, mental health nurses can also perform their duties in different areas. Among those areas are the following:

–        Clinical Research

–        Pediatrics

–        Acute Care

–        Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

–        Emergency Care

–        Critical Care

–        Psychiatric Medication

–        Counseling

–        Intervention

–        Mental Health Education

–        Family Therapy Services

–        Psychiatric/Mental Health

–        Psychotherapy

Mental Health Nurse Practice Settings

The most common place people think mental health nurses are needed is hospitals. Besides hospitals, they are needed and used in a variety of settings. Mental health nurses also practice in the following settings:

–        Community Facilities

–        VA Hospitals

–        Sleep Disorder Clinics

–        Recovery Programs

–        Prisons

–        Substance Abuse Centers

–        Hospitals

–        Short-Term Care Facilities

–        Long-Term Care Facilities

–        Schools

–        Private Practice

Mental Health Illnesses Covered by Psychiatric Nurses

Mental health nurses cover treatment of a variety of people in all age groups with a number of mental illnesses. Some of those mental illnesses include the following:

–    Bipolar Disorder

–    Dementia

–    Psychosis

–    Anxiety Disorder

–    Major Depression

–    Schizophrenia

Characteristics of Mental Health Nurses

Mental health nurses have a different skill set that is needed for their specialty field. This field requires very dedicated and persistent nurses to follow through with patient care as they learn to overcome and manage their illness. Because of the difficult and long-lived nature of mental illness, it requires mental health care workers to be extremely compassion, empathetic, and very understanding. This field can be very rewarding for a nurse as they are able to be one of the first ones to witness a positive change in a patient’s behavior.

Mental health is a growing field in health care as treatment is becoming more specialized for individuals. Mental health care nurses are needed in a variety of settings, work with individuals of all ages and mental health illnesses, as well work with a team of health care workers to provide the proper care for mental health patients. Nurses who have their mental health nursing degrees play an important part in the treatment and care of mental health patients in all clinical settings.

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