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Considering the Psychiatric Nursing Field? Is Mental Health Nursing Right for You?

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In the United States, it’s estimated that approximately 1 in 5 adults handle some sort of mental health problem each year. Yes, you read that correctly – 42.5 million Americans are faced with mental health issues. Unfortunately, there is a serious shortage of psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses in the country as many people are a bit uncomfortable about working in this field. It definitely takes a special person to be a nurse in the mental health care sector but if it’s something that you’re interested in, the need is dire. If you are considering a career in psychiatric nursing, here are some of the key things that you should consider.

Are you thick skinned and able to leave hurtful comments on the table?

Oftentimes, especially in inpatient situations, patients may become aggressive and angry with their caregivers. You need to have the ability to detach yourself from these angry, hurtful words and not take things to heart or take them home with you at night.

Are you an open-minded individual?

There are many, many different kinds of people in the world and you’ll experience just about all of them as a mental health nurse. People may have ideas that offend most people or find solace in habits that are out of the norm. Psychiatric nurses must be able to be accepting of people who have far different ideas and beliefs.

Do you have solid control over your own emotions?

Nurses in mental healthcare need to be able to empathize with their clients, without being empaths. You want your patients to know that you understand their feelings and want to help, without physically sharing their emotions. If you can be comforting and understanding without “going down the rabbit hole,” you’ll be a great choice for this field.

Can you remain calm in chaotic situations?

Depending on the type and severity of the conditions of the patients that you work with, there is the potential for chaotic and sometimes violent situations. You must be able to handle yourself under pressure and authoritatively take control when things start to get out of hand.

Are you good at observing and assessing patients and situations?

Things can change on a dime with patients in mental health care settings, but often there are signs when situations are beginning to escalate. The best nurses in the psychiatric and mental health care field are those who learn their patients and know their habits and idiosyncrasies, which enables them to pick up on the nuances of the start of a downward spiral or potentially volatile situation and prevent things from spiraling out of control.

There are many things that make a person a great psychiatric or mental health nurse – these are just a few of the most important. If you have a heart for those who are struggling with mental health issues or are interested in the psychology of the human mind, consider making a move to psychiatric nursing. This field needs more compassionate, caring providers to help give patients the care that they need and deserve.

Contributor Ron Washburn

Ron is currently the executive vice president of Soliant and has been with the company for more than 28 years now. He oversees our nursing and allied health division and has been with Soliant since its small beginnings in the early 90s. He’s an integral part of our organization, and not only hosts trainings for our groups but manages company events and continues to run a desk of clients and candidates. He is experienced in contract placement, recruiting, permanent placement and internet recruiting within the healthcare industry. Ron possesses a Master's degree focused on Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship from Georgia State University. Don’t forget to check out the rest of his blogs!