Psychiatric nurses provide psychological and physical healthcare services for patients with various mental health conditions in different settings. As a psychiatric nurse, you'll play a crucial role in helping patients manage their symptoms, develop coping mechanisms, and maintain their overall well-being. Choosing a career in psychiatric nursing can be incredibly rewarding. You'll have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of patients and their families by providing them with the support and care they need to overcome mental health challenges.
This blog post answers the question, “Why choose psychiatric nursing?” We'll explore the pros and cons of choosing psych nursing as your career path. To learn more about this specialty, check out Nursa's ultimate guide to psych nursing, which answers all your top questions, including the following: What does a psych nurse do? What is a psych unit? How long does it take to become a psych nurse? And how can I become a psych nurse?
Pros of Psych Nursing
The rise of mental health awareness has significantly increased the demand for mental health services, meaning psych nurses are in high demand. Choosing this specialty means you're positioning yourself well to find a job, as there are many openings for nurses in the mental health field.
Advanced practice registered nurses in the psychiatric mental health specialty (PMH-APRN) have some autonomy in decision-making and are qualified to provide various diagnostic, therapeutic, and primary healthcare services. As a PMH-APRN, you will also have professional opportunities in administrative, educational, and research activities.
Many opportunities in community-based settings such as clinics, private practices, and mental health facilities offer structured and predictable working hours close to "typical business hours." Psychiatric nurses in these settings enjoy standard working daily schedules, so if you're tired of long twelve-hour shifts or night shifts, you may be attracted to the predictability of typical psych nursing work hours.
You can positively impact individuals and, as a result, communities by providing mental health services, creating awareness of psychiatric issues, and reducing stigma by helping patients and their loved ones better understand mental health issues and how to cope with their mental conditions.
Being a psych nurse requires a combination of nursing skills and mental health services to support psychiatrists. You will build an interdisciplinary skillset on the job as it has the scope for creativity and alternative treatment modalities, such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and acupuncture. These skills help bring variety to your role and enable you to learn skills you can leverage in different ways, including professional roles beyond psych nursing.
Cons of Psych Nursing
Emotional Stress and Burnout
Psych nursing requires immense compassion and empathy as you will face many difficult emotional situations. As an empathic person, it is easy to get personally invested and emotionally attached to patients, which can be very emotionally draining and may result in secondary traumatic stress affecting your own mental health.
As a psych nurse, there is a high chance of working with aggressive, angry, or violent patients, which may lead to physical confrontations. However, you will receive training on de-escalation techniques, and security will typically be available. Regardless, these encounters can be distressing and contribute to burnout.
You may face regular ethical dilemmas as a psych nurse, including deciding when to report neglect or abuse and whether to refer patients for mandatory hospitalization. You will, of course, have the opportunity to ask colleagues for their professional advice, but you must know that this is an unavoidable aspect of being a psych nurse.
Hospital psychiatric nurses working in psych units generally have less predictable hours compared to nurses in outpatient facilities. Pysch ward nurses often take on-call shifts. If you're looking for a better work/life balance as a psych nurse, consider community psych nursing, such as working in a private facility, as the hours tend to be more stable.
Final Thoughts | Why Choose Psychiatric Nursing?
Nurses play a crucial part in delivering mental health care services and are in high demand due to rising mental health issues. You may be drawn to psych nursing for many reasons, including the predictable work hours, autonomy, ability to make a positive impact, and opportunity to learn interdisciplinary skills. If you're passionate about mental health education, advocacy, and care, being a psych nurse may be a fitting role. However, it's also essential to consider the challenges of being a psych nurse, including ethical dilemmas, emotional stress, and potential burnout.
If you're considering choosing a career as a psych nurse, check out Nursa's ultimate guide to psych nursing to learn about psych nursing certification, psych nursing salary, what makes a good psych nurse, how to become a psych nurse, and more.