What Skills and Experience Should a Psychiatric Nurse Have?If you are considering a career in nursing, you might be interested to learn about the skills and experience of a psychiatric nurse. Much like a psychiatrist, a psychiatric nurse is a healthcare worker within the field of mental health. Although there are specialized trainings available to help mental health psychiatric nurses grow in their chosen career path, an RN can get an entry-level position in psychiatric care without prior experience in the mental health field. However, there are a few things that can help you on your path toward becoming a psychiatric nurse.

Choosing a Nursing Program

Many nurses first decide to become mental health psychiatric nurses during or after their psychiatric clinical rotations in school. Today, not all nursing programs emphasize clinicals, but the opportunity to learn about specializations through clinical experience is invaluable to many students. Psychiatric clinicals will introduce you to the nature of psychiatric nursing and help you evaluate whether or not you have what it takes to work in the mental health field. When choosing your nursing degree program, choose one that has a strong emphasis on clinical rotations.

Secondary Courses of Study

Although entry-level positions in mental health psychiatric nursing do not generally require specialized studies, you can help prepare yourself for this career by taking classes in social work, psychology and counseling. Psychiatric nurses work closely with social workers and counselors as well as doctors, so it will help to have some educational understanding of the field before you take a job in a mental health setting. Additionally, you will need some training in crisis intervention and de-escalation. Many employers provide some on-the-job training for entry-level staff, but it never hurts to get a head start on learning.

Personality Traits

Work as a psychiatric nurse requires certain personality traits. These jobs are best for nurses who:

  • Are compassionate
  • Have a clear set of personal boundaries
  • Communicate well with others
  • Enjoy advocating for patients
  • Listen well
  • Have strong mediation skills
  • Are not easily distracted

In addition to taking care of patients’ physical needs and distributing medication, psychiatric nurses often spend time listening to patient concerns, recording social and psychiatric histories and assessing states of emotional well-being. You need to be willing to care for patients’ mental health as well as their physical health.

Continuing Education

There are many opportunities for mental health psychiatric nurses to participate in continuing education and grow their personal careers. Master’s programs in psychiatric nursing can lead to opportunities for diagnostic practice. Some nurses attend workshops or participate in certification programs in counseling, mental health and social work. Most employers also require psychiatric nurses to complete personal safety and self-defense training to help them stay safe on the job.

Now that you have a better understanding of nursing in the mental health profession, do you think you would like to gain the skills and experience of a psychiatric nurse? Positions in psychiatric nursing need to be filled, and the pay and benefits for these jobs are equivalent to other nursing positions.

For information on additional nursing specializations to consider, please see: What Different Types of Nursing Can I Specialize In?