Home Health & Wellness Improving Your Role in the Ward as a Psych Nurse: What Steps Can You Take?

Improving Your Role in the Ward as a Psych Nurse: What Steps Can You Take?

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Being a psychiatric ward nurse presents its own set of challenges. At times, even veteran nurses from other fields of nursing may find those unique challenges quite a bit to get used to. However, similar to patients in any other ward, those in the psychiatric ward also need their help, even if some of them don’t agree on that part always.

Understanding the job role

One may argue that healthcare workers need to be nice to all patients because people are naturally more vulnerable when they visit a hospital, irrespective of the health condition that got them admitted. As it happens, they would be right, and being a nurse means that being kind and nice to your patients is part of the job description. However, when you are a nurse working in the psychiatry ward, it’s much more complex than just being nice.

The patients in a psych ward are mentally more vulnerable and for some of them, your interaction can be a lifetime experience. Then there is the need to modulate several aspects of your behaviour and interactions, depending on the patient’s condition and procedure of treatment.

Psychology is essentially the study of human behaviour and interactions, so being prepared to interact and behave with each patient in the appropriate manner is crucial to your professional prowess. All said and done, being nice still works for the most part, although it may feel like a difficult task while dealing with certain patients. Delusions, dementia, personality disorders and anxiety are common symptoms seen here, so misdirected rude behaviour is not entirely uncommon from the patients themselves.

Train yourself to boost your career

Higher education wasn’t always a readily available opportunity for nurses because a large majority of nursing professionals couldn’t afford to pay the tuition of an MSN programme and give up on their present job all at the same time. Online education has made advanced nursing education a practical choice now, as they are flexible courses, designed specifically to suit the busy routines of nurses in all fields of healthcare.

Provided that you have a bachelor’s degree in nursing already, you can complete your graduation and get a Masters of Nursing degree in Psychiatry online too. This will help you to be even more equipped than before, to not just handle your present responsibilities better, but to also take on more responsibilities towards improving the quality of patient care.

If, however, you want to make a more significant impact and bring about changes in policies, the Masters of Nursing in Leadership and Innovation Programme comes highly recommended. In addition to helping you get more power over the very methods used to treat patients in any hospital setting, the programme also opens up your career to higher-paid jobs and a much more diverse range of career options that go beyond just the psych ward or even the hospital.

Complete a counselling course in psychology

Counselling courses are not going to be as prospective as something like a Masters of Nursing programme would be, but if you plan to work as a nurse in the psych ward for the foreseeable future, expect a crash course in counselling to look particularly good on your resume.

Perhaps more importantly, getting trained as a counsellor will allow you to understand your patients, their conditions, and their needs better. Consequently, your professionally trained interactions can be more productive for their mental health, and a learning experience for you. You will be able to communicate with various patients on a level that will make sense to them, but couldn’t have made sense to you before the course.

Professional detachment is necessary, but it’s particularly hard for psych nurses

Human beings are emotional by nature, but as a healthcare professional, you already know the importance of detachment in providing better care and maintaining your own well-being along the way. However, when you make a shift to the psych ward, that professional detachment becomes harder to maintain.

In order to facilitate smooth, regular interactions, connections need to be established with each patient, even if you are not the psychiatrist treating them. This makes it particularly hard to maintain professional detachment and prevent personal attachments from developing. Unfortunately, getting attached with any psych ward patient is an even worse professional mistake than it would be to do so in any other ward.

Not only will it impair your expert judgement, but you may find that their erratic behaviour is affecting your own mental well-being. Focus on your main objective as the care-giving nurse; stay fully aware of why professional detachment with patients is necessary, and be quick to change patients if you sense the interactions are affecting you in any significant way.

Compassion and care are part of the job description, but unless you are careful to draw the line somewhere with conscious effort, your ability to be productive as a compassionate caregiver will suffer.

It’s really easy to forget that nurses, psychiatrists, orderlies and all other healthcare professionals within the psychology ward can also become affected by mental health issues, whether it stem from the nature of the job itself or not. Given that staying on top of your own mental fitness is pretty much a basic requisite of providing the care your patients need from you, it’s vital to notice any warning symptoms before a disorder can creep up on you.

Do ensure that you are not ignoring stress buildups, signs of depression, or anything else that might suggest your own mental or physical health isn’t at optimum level. Irrespective of how qualified and dedicated a nurse may be, they cannot possibly function at their best if they are not keeping a proper tab on their own physical and mental health first.




Helen Bradfield, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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