Psychiatric nursing, also sometimes called mental health nursing, is a branch of the nursing profession which revolves around caring for people with mental illness, psychological disorders, and emotional distress. People at all stages of life can be cared for by psychiatric nurses, although some nurses choose to specialize in areas of particular interest, such as caring for adolescents or dealing with geriatric patients. Employment prospects in psychiatric nursing are quite varied, and the rates of compensation are very diverse, ranging from well paid nurses in private institutions to staff at government funded mental health clinics.
In order to become a psychiatric nurse, someone must first attend nursing school, ideally taking courses in psychology and psychiatry and taking advantage of practicum hours to work with mentally ill patients. Psychiatric nursing certifications usually involve training in specific mental health topics such as psychiatric medications, counseling, and psychology after nursing school is completed. Students also learn about establishing good patient relationships, as the relationship between care provider and patient is especially important in treatment plans for mental illness.
Nurses trained in this field can recognize the signs of psychological disorders, and they may work to prevent the onset of severe disorders. They can also develop treatment plans for patients, and work with other mental health professionals to attend to the needs of the patient. Since some cases of mental illness are also accompanied with physical problems, which can range from dental issues due to neglect to physical impairments caused by brain damage, psychiatric nursing also involves routine nursing tasks such as administering medication and assisting patients. The overall goal is maintaining a high quality of life for the patient, and promoting general health, not just sound mental health.
In addition to caring for individual patients, psychiatric nurses can also help to lead group counseling sessions. They may also choose to work on developing sound healthcare policies which promote maintenance of mental health. Psychiatric nursing is a diverse branch of the nursing field, and the expertise of a psychiatric nurse can be extremely valuable when discussing public health initiatives, community outreach programs, and other healthcare endeavors.
Although board certification is not necessarily required for people who wish to work in psychiatric nursing, it is highly recommended. Board certification requires passing a special exam, and candidates may also need to submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, and other supporting materials. Board certified psychiatric nurses are more employable, and they may be eligible for senior positions and better rates of pay.