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Today, nurses are looking for ways to focus their careers on specialties. One of the more unique options is the psychiatric nurse. Psychiatric nursing plays an integral role in mental health care. It does take specialty training, however, to become a psychiatric nurse. It is a practical option for the nurse with a bachelor’s degree looking to advance their education and career prospects with a master’s. What is a psychiatric nurse, and what does it take to get there?

What is a Psychiatric Nurse?

As the name suggests, a psychiatric nurse specializes in mental health. They may do the following:

  • Mental health assessments
  • Crisis interventions
  • Medication distribution in a mental health facility
  • Therapy

They work in a variety of environments, including hospitals, drug and alcohol recovery centers, corrections facilities, schools, and mental health clinics. They may even have a private practice, though this varies by state and license. Their job is to treat patients with mental health needs.

Top Careers in Psychiatric Nursing

A psychiatric nurse goes through specialized training in mental health care. Typically, that requires at least a master’s degree and may include additional focused schooling. That is what makes them candidates for top psychiatric and mental health nursing jobs, such as:

  • Psychiatric clinical nurse specialist – According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, these nurses have graduate-level training. They provide psychiatric and substance use assessments. They may also develop medication interventions and care plans along with providing psychotherapy.
  • Travel Mental Health Nurse– This mental health specialist might travel to fill in at facilities all around the country. They may also visit areas that have little access to mental health
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner– Psych NP requires graduate-level training to work in primary care settings with patients across the lifespan, such as veterans, adolescents, and others struggling with addiction.
  • Criminal Justice – A psychiatric nurse can also work in other sectors, such as psychiatric hospitals and prisons, dealing with those with criminal histories. You may also find this nurse at a court-mandated substance abuse program or a border detention facility.
  • Specialized Care Programs – Some psychiatric nurses specialize in a specific mental illness such as ADHD or schizophrenia. They might have private practices, work in the public school system, or as part of a public health department.
  • Crisis Intervention – Nurses who work in crisis intervention might operate phones or telehealth services. They may also be part of a mobile crisis team that goes to the scene of emergencies or natural disasters. A mobile crisis team might also visit poor or underserved areas on the street or go to homeless camps or shelters.

Insurance companies will also sometimes hire psychiatric nurses to provide in-home care and assessment. They may also offer telehealth services to those who have policies with them. These are just a few paths you might follow if you decide to become a psychiatric nurse.

The Demand for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

There continues to be a shortage of nurses nationwide, especially for specialized nurses. As the need for mental health care continues to grow, the need for nurse practitioners will grow with it.

The demand for more accessible health care is growing. In part, this is due to an increased awareness of mental health and how it affects someone’s daily life. The baby boomer population is also aging, meaning there is a need for psychiatric nurse practitioners specializing in senior care.

How to Become a Mental Health Nurse

The career of a mental health nurse starts where all nursing careers do – with an accredited nursing school. You can start with a diploma or associate degree in nursing and continue your education to earn a Bachelor of Nursing Science (BSN) degree. You will also need to pass the NCLEX-RN national exam before enrolling in the BSN program.

After earning your undergraduate degree, you will want to work in mental health services to gain experience in this sector. This allows you to see if this is the right career path before committing to graduate school. To gain admittance, most graduate programs require at least one year of full-time work experience in a clinical role.

Once you choose this path, you will need an advanced nursing degree such as a master’s or doctorate. In order to specialize in mental health, you would then complete a post-master’s certificate program.

After earning your Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification, you will have to sit for and pass the ANCC board certification exam. Once you are appropriately credentialed and licensed within your state of practice, you may be able to work in a variety of environments as a mental health nurse practitioner.

It can take several years to get your specialization. During this time, you can work as a nurse and even find a job in mental health to support your studies.

The Master of Science in Nursing Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Specialization at Post University

Of course, once you become a registered nurse, the next step is to find the right nursing school program to continue your studies. Post University offers both a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science program and Master of Science in Nursing program, part of the American Sentinel College of Nursing & Health Sciences. Both programs are offered online, making it a more flexible option for working nurses. In addition, with courses available 24/7, there are also monthly start dates and up to 18 transfer credits considered for acceptance.

The practice-focused curriculum prepares you for a career in mental health with the appropriate specialization, allowing you to grow professionally. To qualify, you must complete the online application, provide a resume or curriculum vitae, and offer a detailed essay about your future goals, professional background, or how you plan to maintain work-life balance. You can also write about why this particular program and specialty appeals to you.

Find out more about the psychiatric nurse practitioner program online program at Post University today and train to seek a career as a mental health nurse.

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Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.