Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse

Psychiatric and mental health nurses help individuals suffering from psychiatric disorders. Continue reading to learn about the occupational outlook, educational requirements, and potential salaries for this field.

Is Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing for Me?

Career Summary

Psychiatric and mental health nurses assess patients' needs and create a nursing plan. Clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners may also help diagnose mental health disorders and treat people who have psychiatric disorders.

According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA), you must be a registered nurse (RN) to work in psychiatric and mental health, but advanced practice nursing positions can also be obtained with additional education (www.apna.org). Psychiatric and mental health nurses work in hospitals, nursing care facilities, community health care programs and mental health agencies.

Necessary Skills

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the best nurses are caring, sympathetic and emotionally stable (www.bls.gov). You should also be responsible and detail-oriented. You should be in good physical condition since you'll be bending, walking, stretching and standing throughout the day.

Salaries and Job Outlook

The BLS reported that more than 2.7 million people worked as RNs and over 151,000 were employed as advanced practice nurses in 2012. The BLS projected that the employment of registered nurses would increase by 19% between 2012 and 2022. Job opportunities for advanced practice nurses should grow by 31% during that same period of time.

The APNA adds that the psychiatric and mental health nurse specialty has a shortage of nurses. As of May 2012, the median annual salary for RNs was $65,470, according to the BLS. According to March 2014 figures from PayScale.com, most psychiatric nurses at the RN level earned an annual salary between $43,430 and $81,063. Most psychiatric nurse practitioners received annual pay between $66,234 and $122,194 as of 2014.

How Do I Become a Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse?

Undergraduate Education

To become a psychiatric and mental health nurse, you must be a registered nurse. This requires earning at least an associate's degree and passing a national licensing exam. However, to earn certification in mental health nursing from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, you must have at least two years of nursing experience, complete at least 2,000 hours of psychiatric mental health nursing in three years and earn at least 30 continuing education credits in psychiatric and mental health nursing (www.nursecredentialing.org).

Graduate Programs

To earn credits in psychiatric and mental health nursing, you can pursue an accelerated combination bachelor's and master's degree program. However, it's more common to pursue a master's degree program in advance practice psychiatric and mental health nursing, psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner or nursing with a specialization in psychiatric and mental health nursing. A master's degree can lead to a career as a certified psychiatric and mental health nurse or an advanced practice nurse. Doctoral degree programs are also available and can prepare you for a career as a clinical nurse specialist or a nurse practitioner in psychiatric and mental health.

Topics of Study

Through a master's degree program in psychiatric and mental health nursing, you may explore mental disorders, diagnosis techniques and therapeutic methods. In other classes, you may learn how to assess someone's mental health condition and create treatment plans. At the doctoral degree level, you may study theories of family health, ways to promote mental health, methods for revising healthcare to meet modern needs and alternative medical treatments for psychiatric disorders. For all graduate degree programs in nursing, you'll conduct research and complete clinical practicums.

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