Psychiatric and mental health nurses, at Masters level, are certified as either clinical nurse specialists or nursing practitioners. These practitioners provide a range of care and treatment options to individual patients or groups of patients suffering from mental health challenges; as well as their families and their communities. An advanced psychiatric nurse can specialize in specific populations, such as child, adolescent, or adult nursing. It is also possible to specialize in areas of nursing, such as substance abuse or forensic nursing.
The American Psychiatric Nurse’s Association has over 6,000 members and is the leading professional association for mental health nursing practitioners. There is a strong background article on psychiatric and mental health nursing for nurses on the Healthier Tomorrow website.
Advanced practice nurses, also known as NP or CNS with a psychiatric or mental health specialization are responsible for the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of psychiatric problems. Due to the complexity and multi-dimensional nature of psychiatric difficulties, this speciality requires the professional to gain expertise in a plethora of interrelated medical areas including pharmacology, sociology, psychology, and biology.
The psychiatric and mental health nursing practitioner plays an important role in various settings ranging from traditional healthcare environments like clinics to offices and homes. These nursing professionals can practice independently and can prescribe medication in the majority of US states.
The first step to take when working towards becoming a psychiatric and mental health nursing practitioner is to attain an accredited Masters of Science in Nursing. Luckily, these programs are plentiful in the United States and there are various options available onsite and online.
One of the primary certification boards for psychiatric and mental health nursing practitioners and clinical nurse specialists is the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Using this board, you will always be able to take the most suitable certification examination at the end of your degree program. It is essential that you take a moment to check with the relevant Board of Nursing in the state where you intend to practice for specific practicing requirements.
While it is possible to become a psychiatric and mental health nurse without attaining an MSN – as long as you are registered as an RN – the Masters qualification can bring additional obligations. One of these responsibilities is the ability to approach a practice independently and provide care individually.
Lorry Schoenly is a registered nurse, educator, and nurse writer with over 25 years of nursing practice experience. Dr Schoenly has attained certification in five different medical specialities, including emergency nursing and critical care. Beginning with an associate nursing degree, this registered nurse continued her schooling in nursing via traditional onsite learning and distance learning. Schoenly was able to attain a BSN, MSN, and PhD while employed in full-time occupation and raising a family. Lorry is a popular teacher of nursing skills using a plethora of settings, including online webinars and online programs.
The psychiatric and mental health nursing practitioner works to provide care for individuals with mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. These nurses also provide care for patients with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse. A psychiatric and mental health nursing position can be found in various care settings across the age continuum and these nurses work with children, adolescents, adults and geriatrics. The nursing posts can be located in outpatient and inpatient settings, mental health agencies, correctional settings, and primary care offices.
The psychiatric and mental health nursing practitioner performs a comprehensive biopsychosocial assessment of the patient when offering treatment. This assessment can include family histories and the histories will assist with treatment option identification. Psychiatric medications are administered with monitoring of side effects and the nurses are an active part of the multidisciplinary therapy team. The teams typically include nurses alongside psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychiatric social workers to build on treatment goals. Community resources may be coordinated as modes of therapy for the patient and the family.
A key component of the psychiatric and mental health nursing practice is the development of a therapeutic relationship between the family and the patient. The psychiatric and mental health nurses must positively engage with the patient to create a care plan and empower the individual to take action towards improving his or her mental health. The work will involve explanation of medication, prescription of drugs, and management of side effects, easing the patient’s adjustment to a mental health condition, and gaining control over a lifestyle to manage a debilitating psychiatric condition.
The psychiatric and mental health nursing staff can benefit the relationship with family and friends by helping them understand the treatment plan developed. Strong communication with leadership skills is essential to accomplish this task. For example, a nursing practitioner may work with a teenager and her family to manage a case of bulimia. The nurse can evaluate the family for triggers or stressors developing an action plan to overcome the issues. Furthermore, the nurse can work with the patient to set healthy eating goals and explore eating control factors.
The psychiatric and mental health nurse can work in a plethora of settings including day care, acute care, and mental health specialty hospitals. These nursing positions are also available at drug rehabilitation facilities or community centers. The majority of nursing staff experience psychiatric mental health patients during initial training; however, the experience can be limited and based on availability. To gain further experience in this specialty, it is recommended that you volunteer in mental health settings to see if this is a good fit for your skills or interests.