A mental health nurse is a professional nurse with added training to work in the mental health field. He or she is responsible for not only the physical well-being of patients, but their emotional and mental health as well. Mental health nurses may work in mental hospitals, clinics, and public hospitals which offer counseling or mental health services. Some counselors or therapists may also employ the services of a mental health nurse, depending on the type and size of the practice.
One of the main roles of a mental health nurse is to help patients by providing emotional support and guidance. She is often the first point of contact for new patients and may spend more one-on-one time with patients than the doctor. In some cases the mental health nurse will be trained as a counselor as well, while other times she may learn the specifics of caring for the mentally ill on the job. The training obtained by each individual will dictate the responsibilities she is allowed to do, although most nurses work with patients in a variety of ways regardless of training.
A mental health nurse generally partakes in things nurses in other fields do, such as taking blood pressure, temperature, and vital signs. She may also help in dispensing medication to patients in hospital facilities and in making sure that patients are comfortable. In clinics, the nurse also typically asks questions about a patient’s condition. This includes any current or previous diagnoses, medications he or she may be taking, and the types of symptoms he or she is experiencing.
If the mental health nurse is also trained in counseling or therapy, she may also help with the patient’s sessions. Many times a counselor will use non-medication techniques for many ailments while the doctor prescribes medications when needed. The training needed in addition to a typical associate’s or bachelor’s nursing degree varies based on location, but generally requires courses in counseling or psychology.
To become a mental health nurse, students may take courses in a two- or four- year program, followed in most cases by a comprehensive exam on course material. Some areas may require some additional training in the mental health field, while others may require on the job training for any specialty a nurse decides to obtain. Mental health nurses, primarily those working in a hospital setting, are required to have patience, since most patients there are under extreme stress or may exhibit odd behaviors due to a mental illness.