What Is a Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist?

A psychiatric clinical nurse specialist is a specialty nurse that uses his or her skills to improve the well-being of individuals suffering from mental illness. Read on to find out about pursuing this nursing specialty. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

In general, clinical nurse specialists are advanced practice nurses that provide direct patient care independently of other nurses or in close collaboration with doctors. Psychiatric clinical nurse specialists, also known as mental health clinical nurse specialists, provide nursing care to patients suffering from psychiatric disorders.

As a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist, you have more responsibilities than a registered nurse, which includes diagnosing patients' mental health disorders and psychiatric problems. You may be able to prescribe psychotropic medications, though this may depend on where you work.

You're expected to perform nursing research, educate other nurses, and provide clinical leadership. Another key element of your job can also include providing psychotherapy to patients with mental health issues, usually under the supervision of a psychiatrist. You can choose to provide your services to people of all ages.

Important Facts About Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialists

Salary $91,000
Key Skills Conflict resolution, data analysis, decision making, and consultation skills
Similar Occupations Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, Licensed Practical Nurse, Certified Nursing Assistant
Work Environment Hospital/clinical setting

Source: PayScale


As with other types of advanced practice nurses, you need to have a master's degree in nursing to become a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist. Training in psychiatric nursing is typically provided through a concentration within a graduate degree program in nursing, sometimes resulting in a mental health clinical nursing specialist certificate. While enrolled, you will study advanced theories of nursing and health assessment, as well as mental health illness from a behavioral and biological viewpoint. You may take classes in psychopharmacology, psychiatric assessment, mental disorder pathogenesis, and mental health across the lifespan in conjunction with extensive clinical training.

Licensing and Certification

All nurses are required to become licensed by taking the National Council Licensing Examination. Once you've completed your master's degree program and clinical training, you can seek certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which offers separate certifications for psychiatric clinical nurse specialists specializing in children or adults.

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