How Do You Become a Psychiatric Nurse?

Psychiatric NurseBefore you look at how to become a psychiatric nurse, you may want to give some thought to the things that these nurses do every day. They often work in clinical settings, including psychiatric hospitals and mental institutions, and assist doctors with caring for patients. You might work with patients diagnosed with severe mental illnesses and handle stressful situations every day. If you want to work in the psychiatric field as a nurse, you must have your college degree and meet some other standards too.

Duties of the Job

Psychiatric nurses handle a number of different tasks on the job every day. They are the ones responsible for recording notes and keeping track of patient files, but they also work with individual patients as well. These nurses administer medications prescribed by doctors and alert doctors of any possible problems they might find. Other duties may include talking with the families and loved ones of patients, helping those loved ones understand the treatment options available and keeping patients calm while discussing their cases. Psychiatric nurses also consult with doctors and other health care professionals as needed.

Becoming a Nurse

Before you can become a psychiatric nurse, you must become a registered nurse first. You can accomplish this through a two year or more year program that culminates in either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. Many colleges now offer RN to BSN programs that let you transfer the credits you earned during your RN years into a new program that lets you earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. These programs combine classroom learning with real life experience. You may spend a year or more working with registered nurses in hospitals and other medical facilities near campus.

Getting Certified

Even if you have a nursing degree, your degree does not necessarily qualify you to work as a nurse. All nurses working in the United States must have a license to practice. To get a license in your state, you must first pass the NCLEX. This extensive test consists of more than 200 questions on everything from medications and ethics to laws and patient care. Many states also require that you submit your fingerprints to a local police station to go through a background check. You will also want to take the psychiatric nursing certification tests offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Gaining More Experience

According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, you should gain more experience before applying for psychiatric nursing jobs and while you’re in college. The APNA recommends that those who want to become a psychiatric nurse do volunteer work in local hospitals and in other settings where they work directly with patients dealing with mental conditions. This lets you see if you can handle the types of people you will work with every day and if the job is a good fit for you. The volunteer experiences that you add to your resume may also show that you have some real life experience when you start searching for a job.

Related Resource: Developmental Psychologist

Psychiatric nurses work with patients diagnosed with conditions like depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and even schizophrenia. The job is extremely hard and stressful, which is why you should get some experience in the field and determine if you can handle the difficulties of the job before you become a psychiatric nurse.