How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse

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How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a psychiatric nurse, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a psychiatric nurse:

 

• You have a desire to help prevent and treat psychosocial, mental or emotional disorders

• You have a desire to work in a dynamic, fast-paced and challenging healthcare environment

• You understand the complex relationships between mental, emotional, developmental, and physical health

• You understand the influence of social factors on mental and physical health and on illness

• You can manage your own behaviour well enough to provide safe, competent and ethical nursing care

• You are willing to be exposed to potentially violent and aggressive situations when working with patients

 

Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a psychiatric nurse. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!

 

 

Education Needed to Become a Psychiatric Nurse

Canada:

 

To qualify for registration as a psychiatric nurse in Canada, an individual must first complete an approved post-secondary nursing education program and must pass the Registered Psychiatric Nurse of Canada Examination (RPNCE) or the Canadian Registered Nurse Examination (CRNE). 

 

accredited psychiatric nursing education institutions in Canada's Western Provinces. These programs provide students with specialized knowledge about mental and physical health, mental and physical illness, psychopathology, pathophysiology, health promotion, disease prevention, and health care systems. 

 

You can also qualify by first becoming a registered nurse (RN), and then pursuing career experience in the area of psychiatric-mental health nursing. With 2 years experience in the specialty area of Psychiatric-Mental Health (PMH) nursing, the RN is eligible to apply to write the Canadian Nurses Association specialty certification examination in PMH nursing leading to certification in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing CPMHN(C).

 

United States:

 

To qualify for becoming a psychiatric nurse in the United States, you first need to hold a master's, postgraduate, or doctoral degree* from a psychiatric–mental health clinical nurse specialist program (adult or child specialization) accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

 

You also need to have a minimum of 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours in the adult or child psychiatric–mental health clinical nurse specialist role.

 

*As long is coursework is completed, candidates may write certification exams prior to degree conferral.

 

 

 

Psychiatric Nurse Job Description

Psychiatric nurses, also known psychiatric-mental health nurses (PMHNs) or mental health nurses, are nurses with specialized knowledge about mental and physical health, mental and physical illness, psychopathology, pathophysiology, health promotion, disease prevention, and health care systems.

 

They use their specialized knowledge to plan, coordinate and provide care for helping individuals, families, groups and communities prevent, treat and palliate psychosocial, mental or emotional disorders and conditions, as well as any associated physiological conditions.

 

Psychiatric nurses work with people of all ages, regardless of gender, ethnicity or social situation in a variety of settings (such as hospitals, communities, homes, clinics, residential facilities, penitentiaries, as well as with those who are homeless). 

 

 

Psychiatric Nurse Job Duties

• Educate patients and their families about mental illness

• Develop risk assessments and care plans for individual patients

• Prepare and maintain comprehensive patient records

• Develop the social skills of the patient by organizing social events and activities

• Provide cognitive behaviour therapy for depression or anxiety

• Build relationships and establish trust with patients

• Gain thorough understanding of the needs of patients

• Ensure the correct administration of medication and injections

• Respond to distressed patients in a non-threatening manner and attempt to understand the source of distress

 

 

Who Employs Psychiatric Nurses?

Psychiatric nurses are employed on a part-time, full-time and casual basis by the following types of organizations:

 

• Hospitals

• Community clinics

• Correctional facilities

• Mental health facilities

• Residential care facilities

• Acute care, extended care, long term care or palliative care facilities

 


 

Find Psychiatric Nurse Job Opportunities

Psychiatric Nurse Jobs - Canada

 

Psychiatric Nurse Jobs - United States

 


 

Certification Needed to Become a Psychiatric Nurse

Canada:

 

To become a psychiatric nurse in Canada, you need to be a registered nurse (RN) with the nursing regulation body in your province or territory. To qualify for registration, you must complete the educational requirements, and pass the Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Canada Examination. This provides the nurse with the Registered Psychiatric Nurse credential (RPN).

 

The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) administers an annual national examination in the specialty of psychiatric-mental health nursing. Registered nurses who successfully complete the exam are considered certified in PMH Nursing and can use the credential CPMHN(C).

 

United States:

 

To become a psychiatric nurse in the United States, you need to be registered with the nursing regulation body in your state. To qualify for registration, you must complete the educational requirements, hold a current and active registered nurse (RN) license, and pass the appropriate examination for your area of specialty (child or adult, specialist or practitioner) that is administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).


 

 

Skills and Competencies Needed to Become a Psychiatric Nurse

All psychiatric nurses must begin their careers with foundational, entry-level competencies and be able to demonstrate the capacity to practice in accordance with the professional standards of the regulatory body in their region. These skills and competencies generally include:

 

• A strong working and short-term memory

• Able prioritize and manage multiple caseloads

• Able to complete health history and mental status assessments

• Able to administer and assess the effects of medications

• Able to appropriately respond to observed behavioral changes

• Able to implement strategies to promote optimal mental health, physical health, and overall well-being of patients

• Aware of how to respond appropriately in situations that are stressful or that involve conflict

• Understand the complex relationships between mental, emotional, developmental, and physical health

• Understand the influence of social factors on mental and physical health and on illness

• Understand the psychosocial components of care, including the therapeutic relationship, interpersonal communications, and teamwork

 

 

Characteristics Needed to Become a Psychiatric Nurse

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a psychiatric nurse, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your duties as a psychiatric nurse is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which can lead to having a long and successful career.

 

• You have a keen interest in helping others

• You accept individual differences

• You enjoy working individually and in a team setting

• You have a desire to work in a dynamic, fast-paced and challenging environment

• You are compassionate, patient, respectful and ethical

• You are able to work effectively in an unpredictable environment

• You can manage your own behaviour well enough to provide safe, competent and ethical nursing care

• You are willing and able to work on your feet for many hours a day

• You have manual dexterity and are able to perform work that involves lifting, bending, reaching and carrying objects

 

 

Other Qualifications Needed to Become a Psychiatric Nurse

In order to become a psychiatric nurse, you must meet certain formal requirements for professional registration beyond the educational and certification requirements. These qualifications may vary by region but typically include:

 

• Demonstrable good character

• Providing evidence of fitness to practice

• Passing a criminal record check

 

 

Psychiatric Nurse Salary

The salary level of psychiatric nurses can vary, depending on their level of education, their level of experience and aptitude, the size and type of their employer, the region in which they work, and many other factors.

 

Psychiatric Nurse Salary Alberta: According to the 2017 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Psychiatric Nurses occupational group earn an average salary of $80,129 per year.

 

Psychiatric Nurse Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary of American workers in the Nurse Practitioners occupational group is $110,930 per year.

 

 

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Work Environment for Psychiatric Nurses

Working Hours: Psychiatric nurses may work part-time, full-time or on a casual basis. They may work a variety of different shifts, ranging from the regular weekday 9-5 shift, to evening, night and weekend shifts.

 

Work Setting: Psychiatric nurses typically work in facilities such as hospitals, community clinics, corrections and mental health facilities, and spend much of their time in direct contact with patients.

 

Working Conditions: Psychiatric nurses are exposed to a wide variety of occupational hazards. They may be exposed to blood, bodily fluids, infectious diseases and chemicals, and may be exposed to potentially violent and aggressive situations when working with patients.

 

 

Careers Similar to Psychiatric Nurse

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Psychiatric Nurse, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.

 

Child Life Specialist

Mental Health Counselor

Psychiatrist

Social Worker

Registered Nurse

 

 

References: Psychiatric Nurse Career Information

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a psychiatric nurse.

 

Alberta Health Services - Careers website: www.albertahealthservices.ca

Alberta Learning and Information Service website: alis.alberta.ca

American Psychiatric Nurses Association website: www.apna.org

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website: www.bls.gov

 

 

Scholarships for Becoming a Psychiatric Nurse

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Psychiatric Nurse can be found on our Nursing Scholarships and Psychology Scholarships pages.

 

Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!

 

 

Becoming a Psychiatric Nurse: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a psychiatric nurse. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!

 


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