The world of healthcare has been in a state of crisis for years. This is particularly true when it comes to staffing nurses who provide mental health care. It’s not a big mystery why. The work is hard. The patients’ struggles can be traumatic, even for the people treating them.
But providing psychiatric care is important, rewarding work that is worth considering for people who are getting ready to enter the healthcare career space. If you are interested in working as a psychiatric nurse, you probably have lots of questions.
Psychiatric nurse practitioner
Psychiatric nurse practitioners can behave in much the same way as doctors. Their degree qualifies them to make diagnoses and even prescribe medications. They will often collaborate with an entire team of healthcare providers, delivering care that addresses the patient’s physical, mental, and emotional needs.
They may work on the psychiatric floor of a hospital or even maintain their own offices and clinics. Do note that what nurse practitioners are able to do will vary considerably based on where they are located. Some states give them almost the same level of freedom that doctors have. Others are more restrictive, requiring NPs to be closely supervised by a medical doctor.
Psychiatric nurses work in hospitals and clinics to provide direct mental health care and support. While there are many capacities in which they may work, they are often directly involved in implementing medical interventions for patients who have experienced significant psychiatric events.
The demand for psychiatric nurses is on the rise as society recognises the importance of mental health, making it a significant nursing job opportunity for those passionate about psychiatric care.
Mental health care is not only about treating mental or emotional disorders. People suffering from addiction or substance abuse typically also receive care from psychiatric professionals. Nurses who specialise in addiction recovery often work in detoxification facilities or outpatient clinics devoted to recovery.
They provide their patients with comprehensive care, including withdrawal management, counseling, and general education. These positions have never been in higher demand thanks to the growing strain of the opioid epidemic.
While there is work for nurses who wish to help addicts recover everywhere, it is a position that is particularly in demand in rural communities where the opioid epidemic is at once highly prominent, and largely untreated.
Child and adolescent psychiatric nurse
Child and adolescent psychiatric nurses do much of the same work described in earlier headings. The primary difference, of course, is that they work primarily with people under the age of eighteen.
Mental health challenges can manifest early in life, and specialised care is essential for children and adolescents.
These nurses work in pediatric hospitals, specialised clinics, and sometimes even schools. Their work requires them to collaborate closely with doctors, families, and educators to ensure that the child’s entire needs are being met.
Do you need a specialised degree to become a psychiatric nurse?
Most of the jobs described above can be attained through a standard nursing certification. While continuing your education will make you eligible for leadership roles, it is not strictly necessary for administering mental health care.
The primary exception is for people who want to become a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners hold a graduate degree that typically takes between 1–3 years for certified nurses to attain. While this may sound like a daunting proposition, it does give you the opportunity to assume more of a leadership role. As mentioned earlier, nurse practitioners are basically like junior doctors, having a significant amount of autonomy.
Psychiatric nursing definitely is not for everyone. It’s hard to witness people in the throes of mental illness. Harder still to be tasked with administering their care fully aware that progress will be slow and difficult.
Every nurse witnesses people at their darkest moments but that fact has a somewhat different meaning for those administering psychiatric care. But while helping people deal with their mental illnesses is challenging, it is also meaningful work. If you are interested in changing lives, consider a job in psychiatric nursing.
Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.