Psychiatric nurses work within many medical institutions including hospitals, private practices, mental health facilities and outpatient clinics. They help treat those patients who have mental illness or suffer from mental distress in their daily life. Psychiatric nurses also attend to everyday nursing practices such as administering medication, helping patients dress and bathe, and other daily care techniques.
The Different Education Pathways
To become a psychiatric nurse, one of the following forms of education must be completed:
- Diploma: A diploma, which is usually earned over three years through a hospital training program, is not an adequate basic education level for a career as a psychiatric nurse.
- Associate Degree: A two year associate degree can be the minimum requirement for a position in psychiatric nursing, but most nurses in this category choose to go on to receive graduate degrees which means that a Bachelor of Science in nursing is required. An associate bridge to a BSN degree may be available, and some medical institutions may hire psychiatric nurses with a minimum of an associate degree if they have additional training and certification.
- Undergraduate Degree: Education Portal explains that an undergraduate degree such as a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree is the most common level of education for a psychiatric nursing position. This is the minimum requirement for a registered nursing career, which can advance into a job as a psychiatric nurse following additional training and licensure. Common coursework includes anatomy, psychology, mental health studies, and chemistry. This is normally a four year program offered through a university setting.
- Graduate Degree: A Master of Science in nursing, Master of Psychiatric Health, or a Master of Mental Health degree can also be achieved toward the goal of becoming a psychiatric nurse. Graduate level degrees give more independence in the medical field as well as an additional level of pay. These programs require an additional one to two years following graduation from an undergraduate degree program.
- Doctorate Degree: A Doctor of Nursing Practice with a specialization in mental health or psychiatry can be an additional year of study through a university setting, and includes a project, published documentation, and other work within the psychiatric world to qualify for graduation.
Graduate and doctorate level programs in psychiatric nursing can sometimes be completed through partial classroom and partial online learning.
The NCLEX-RN examination must be passed in order to work within the United States. All students who are entering the nursing profession must successfully complete this national licensure examination required by RNs and pediatric nurses across the country. Some states may also require additional certification within the specialization of pediatrics, such as the Pediatric Nursing Certification offered through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.
Prerequisites for Study
In order to enter a registered nursing degree program directly out of high school, students must have grade 12 completion of math, biology, and chemistry, as well as one other science program. A high school diploma containing a grade point average of 2.0 or higher is also necessary. Entering a master’s degree program requires a GPA of 3.0 from an undergraduate program through most universities. Some programs have a No gre or waiver requirement.
In order to become a psychiatric nurse, the attending academic institution must be accredited. The United States Department of Education is a great resource to determine this, along with The Accreditation Commission for the Education of Nurses, and The American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Getting Certified as a Psychiatric Nurse
The NCLEX-RN examination must be passed in order to work within the United States. All students who are entering the nursing profession must successfully complete this national licensure examination required by RNs and pediatric nurses across the country. Some states may also require additional certification within the specialization of pediatrics, such as the Pediatric Nursing Certification offered through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. The certification and licensure are determined based on a number of criteria and categories nationally, including:
- How safe a patient is within their care environment.
- Psychological integrity of a nurse as proven by the ability to cope and change.
- The prevention of illness and injury.
- Physiological integrity displayed through care for physical symptoms.
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The Cost of Becoming a Psychiatric Nurse
Tuition rates tend to fluctuate based on the exact degree program or diploma that is being completed, the educational facility one is attending and the state where the college or university is located. Information on finances, such as tuition and other fees, can commonly be found through your university’s website or admissions office.
Scholarships for Psychiatric Nurses
Psychiatric nurses have a few different paths to take for financial assistance, and many scholarships that can be applied for. The American Psychiatric Nurses Association Board of Directors Student Scholarship is one such scholarship, which provides nursing students with financial assistance during their academic path to a nursing career. Another scholarship that psychiatric nursing students might apply for is through the military through their Health Professions Scholarship Program.
Working as a Psychiatric Nurse
Psychiatric nurses work in high stress positions within hospitals, clinics, private practices, private in-home care and mental facilities. They assist in diagnosis and treatment of patients with mental illness, disabilities or other psychological issues. This includes a variety of care and procedures including counseling and educating patients and family members and acting as a liaison between patients and other medical staff.
- Training and Care: Psychiatric nurses are trained in neurological problems, mental illness, pharmacology, counseling methods, suicide prevention, critical care, and many other functions of nursing.
- Job Outlook: Education Portal reports that psychiatric nurses will see an increase in growth of 19% by the year 2022, which is a faster than average job outlook rate of growth when compared to other industries across the country.
- Rate of Pay: According to The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics nurse practitioners working in the profession of psychiatric nursing have the ability to make a median pay rate of $91,930 per year or $44.04 per hour.