Mental Health Nursing + Salary, Careers & Jobs Outlook

by NurseJournal Staff
• 1 min read

A mental health nurse is an expert in assessing, diagnosing, and treating various psychiatric disorders, working as members of a dedicated health care team

A mental health nurse is an expert in assessing, diagnosing and treating various psychiatric disorders. These nursing professionals work as members of a dedicated health care team that provides complete health care for the mental and physical aspects of people. With the right type of nursing training, you will be able to:

  • Evaluate the mental health needs of patients

  • Evaluate and write plans of treatment

  • Provide psychotherapy and other types of interventions

  • Provide patients with supportive and personal care

  • Coordinate patient care with doctors, caregivers and families

  • Prescribe medications as needed

Your responsibilities as a mental health nurse will increase as you gain more experience and education. As an LPN, you would mostly provide personal care and dispense patient medications. When you become an RN, you will have the training to do assessments and to counsel patients and their families.

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Mental Health Nursing – Keep it in Mind

Mental health nurses do many of the same things that psychiatrists do, such as diagnosing conditions, doing psychotherapy and prescribing drugs. Some types of these nurses specialize in adults, adolescents or children. Or, you may focus on one clinical area, such as bulimia. Other mental health nurses care for all types of patients.

Where Mental Health Nurses Work

A mental health nurse can work in many places, including:

  • General hospitals

  • Psychiatric hospitals

  • Substance abuse centers

  • Home healthcare facilities

  • Community mental health centers

  • Private practices

Wherever you work, your work schedule can vary a great deal. If you are working in an inpatient facility, you will work rotating shifts that cover all hours as well as holidays. If you work in a community agency or a private practice, you will usually work regular business hours. But you may work longer hours sometimes to accommodate the schedules of your patients.

You also will work a great deal with families, patients, health care colleagues and facility administrators.

Job Opportunities & Salary Outlook

The Department of Labor anticipates that employment for registered nurses overall will increase by 26% by 2020. We expect that this means there will be stronger demand for mental health nurses in most health care settings.

We think that this will be the case because with the aging of the baby boomer generation, there will be more demand for good mental health services. More patients are going to need treatment for strokes, Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Also, there is a national shortage for psychiatrists as well, which is going to increase the demand for mental health nurses, especially in rural places.

The Department of Labor states that the median salary for nurses generally is $64,700. However, reports that the average salary for a mental health nurse is $73,000:


Requirements to Become

There are several ways that you can become a mental health nurse:

  • Become an LPN by finishing a one year training program at a local community college. This path also requires a set number of clinical training hours.

  • Become an RN and earn your associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing.

  • Become a mental health nurse practitioner by completing your master of science in nursing in advanced practice nursing with an emphasis on psychiatry.

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