Psychiatric Nurses


Exploring this Job

To explore the field of nursing further, read up on the field as much as possible. The Internet and your local library are great resources for additional information. Talk to your school counselor about your possible interest in a career in nursing. He or she may be able to suggest different nursing programs to research or, better yet, give you names of previous students to talk to who have gone on to these medical programs. Volunteering at local hospitals or health care clinics can give you experience working with patients.

Specific to psychiatric nursing, do some research on topics such as drug and alcohol dependence, depression, and other concerns of the field to learn more about this specialized area of nursing.

Additionally, visit for information on nursing education, scholarships, and careers in psychiatric nursing.

The Job

According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, psychiatric nursing occurs at two levels—psychiatric registered nurses and advanced practice psychiatric nurses. Psychiatric registered nurses work primarily with patients needing mental health or psychiatric care. Advanced practice psychiatric nurses are also registered nurses but they have earned certification as certified nurse specialists or have taken graduate courses to become clinical nurse specialists or nurse practitioners, or psychiatric nurse practitioners (PNPs). Some of these specialists may work in supervisory or administrative positions and may, depending on their state's laws, be able to provide psychotherapy services and prescribe medications. Psychiatric nurses in this second, more advanced group may sub-specialize in areas such as child-adolescent mental health nursing, geropsychiatric nursing, forensic nursing, or substance abuse nursing.

Psychiatric nurses perform a wide range of direct-care nursing duties for those with mental illness, emotionally disturbances, and developmental disabilities. They may work with individuals, groups, families, and communities. They care for all people, including children, teens, adults, and the elderly.

In addition to direct patient care, some psychiatric nurses may use their training in the community as community health nurses or educators. They may also work for insurance or managed-care companies, or in health care institutions or government facilities in an administrative, supervisory, or research position. Other nurses may be self-employed on a consulting or contract basis.

Psychiatric nursing is a very intense nursing specialty. Patients require constant attention, mental and physical care, and monitoring.