Psychiatric Nurse


Psychiatric Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice
A psychiatric nurse is also called a psychiatric mental health nurse or PMHN for short.  The mental health nurse is a nurse who specializes in treating patients with psychiatric disorders.  This nursing specialty position commonly deals with all types of mental illness including such things as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

The nurse may work in a clinic or hospital setting or in a private practice.  The area of psychiatric nursing is one of the most challenging of all the specialty nursing segments, yet may also be one of the most rewarding. Roles include:

  • Attends to patients being treated for psychiatric disorders
  • Assists patients in learning about mental health
  • Works with patients and their families to better understand home care
  • Administers medication
  • Helps diagnose and assess mental illness

How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse

A psychiatric mental health nurse is a position that requires a great deal of compassion, patience, and experience.  The position combines the medical experience of an RN with the background of mental health.  This can be a difficult nursing position for those who are not properly prepared.  A PMHN should pursue a background education in psychiatry in order to be best prepared for this career.

The career path for a mental health nurse usually begins with an entry level nursing position at a hospital, clinic, or psychiatric care center.  As your experience grows, so will your opportunities. Another way to further your career in this field is to take additional courses in the area of psychiatry and mental health. Some nurses choose to go on to attain a Master’s or Doctorate degree.

Psychiatric Nurse Education Requirements

A PMHN must begin with a proper education.  The first step is to graduate from a university with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, BSN.  After graduation, the aspiring nurse should take the NCLEX-RN exam to become certified and achieve the status of registered nurse (RN).  Additionally, the mental health nurse may want to advance their career by joining the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA).  Nurses may also want to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), an advanced nurse that requires additional education and certification.  These additional certifications will certainly increase the nurse’s future salary and improve career choices.

Psychiatric Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

There is a continuing increase in the need for nurses in the field of mental health.  As with other health care professionals, there is expected to be a substantial increase in the need for nurses over the next decade.  Because this is a demanding field, fewer nurses pursue this career, making the demand for PMHN even higher. As the population continues to live longer, there are more elderly patients that need attention.

The salary range for this nursing position may range greatly depending on location, employer, education, and experience.  An entry level nurse may expect to earn $40,000 per year, while an experienced nurse with an advanced degree may have a yearly salary of $62,000 or more. 

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