What is a Psychiatric Nurse? | Mental Health Nursing

What is a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse

A psychiatric or mental health nurse provides specialized care to patients suffering from mental illness or anguish.

These nurses treat patients with illnesses or stress-related ailments like bipolar disorder, depression, dementia, psychosis, and schizophrenia.

Nurses in this field deliver psychological therapies to relieve stress and reduce mental illness.

They also administer psychiatric medications to patients who need more than essential psychological therapy.

Because of the emphasis on mental health, psychiatric nurses pay special attention and focus on building relationships with their patients.

It helps them build on their mental and emotional strengths so the patient functions confidently and independently.

In addition, the nurses aim to suppress or eliminate their patient’s mental disorders/ailments through therapy and positive feedback.

This field requires patience, a good temperament, empathy, and a strong desire to help others with mental ailments.

Psychiatric nurses must also build good relationships and demonstrate a healthy bond between professionals and patients.

Psychiatric nurses must possess these traits and skills to properly treat and care for their patients.

Essential Psychiatric Nurse Skills

  • Availability
  • Setting clear boundaries
  • Empathy
  • Equality
  • Individuality
  • Respect
  • Supportiveness
  • Understanding


Patients suffering from mental or emotional ailments are often sensitive to feelings of abandonment and un-approachability.

Thus psychiatric nurses do their best to comfort their patients by being available when needed.

It allows the patient to build trust and better communication with the nurses and those around them.

Clear Boundaries

Setting clear boundaries allows the nurse and the patient to operate independently, comfortably, and respectably.

In addition, by setting clear boundaries, the patient can feel comfortable and approachable without feeling offended or needing to defend themselves or their behavior.


Being empathetic allows patients to accept their condition better and act positively towards nurses and treatments designed to relieve their mental ailments.

It also gives patients a sense of importance and respect and helps build a strong bond between patient and professional.


Equality is essential for helping patients create a sense of self-worth and importance.

By conveying equality to the patient, the nurse gives them the strength to reflect positively on their identity.

It also empowers the patient to take responsibility for their behavior.

Finally, focusing on equality helps patients build the skills and psychological framework necessary to develop healthy relationships and independence to lead healthy, self-sufficient lives.


Helping patients develop their sense of individuality helps them establish healthy perspectives and form personal goals, desires, and dreams.

It also allows them to create their emotions through their sense of identity.

Finally, it helps them realize the importance of their existence as an individual contributor with their perspective and contributions.

Psychiatric nurses provide personal care to patients and develop and focus on the essential areas outside their illness or ailments.

That way, patients can alter their perspectives and see beyond their mental health issues.


Respect is essential for boundary setting and healthy self-esteem.

Mental health nurses allow patients to lower their emotional defenses and feel comfortable about their problems.

They accept their patient’s mental conditions, faults, and limitations.

As a result, the patient feels empowered to speak about their issues and possible remedies without feeling wronged, blamed, or guilty for their behavior.


Positive support is vital for healthy mental development.

It allows patients to feel comfortable about their problems and encourages them to share their feelings to find healthy solutions to their ailments.

It also enables patients to feel a sense of being cared for, which helps heal emotional or psychological wounds from feeling defensive and uncooperative.

Psychiatric nurses may encourage supportive behavior through socializing or using physical touch.

It includes congratulating, agreeing with, or hugging patients, enabling a feeling of love and caring, and helping them cope better with their mental problems.


Allowing patients to feel understood and accepted helps foster positive relationships and bonds between nurse and patient.

Those who feel understood do not have to feel defensive or hide their mental condition.

Thus, they can provide the nurse with feedback to develop the best type of treatment for the patient.

That way, the patient can heal and stabilize their mental illness disorder or ailment.

Developing a relationship of positive understanding and care is also essential for the patient’s mental health, sense of well-being, and overall comfort.

It allows the patient to accept their condition without feeling overly negative.

Many treatments psychiatric nurses provide focus on helping patients look beyond their mental ailments and concentrate on their lives.

It helps patients understand their mental health and pay attention to the areas in their lives that aren’t about or affected by their ailments.

For instance, they focus on activities or hobbies, relationships with family and friends, contributions and achievements, and many other aspects of their lives.

It allows them to develop healthy perspectives about who they are and helps them feel they have an essential role in this world.

How To Become A Psychiatric Nurse

To become a psychiatric nurse, you must first become a certified registered nurse.

Becoming a registered nurse requires taking a nursing program offered at a university or college.

The prerequisites and GPA average required to enter the nursing program may vary depending on the university or college.

The level of competition for getting accepted into the nursing program may also vary depending on where you apply.

Highly accredited schools generally have higher levels of competition.

Therefore, it’s essential to determine what school best meets your requirements and perquisites and GPA average to gain the best ability to be accepted into the program.

It generally takes 2 – 4 years of schooling before becoming certified as a registered nurse with an associate degree in nursing.

After taking the required nursing courses and passing the national exam to become a registered nurse, you can apply for an entry position in the nursing field.

From there, you can begin taking continuing education courses in psychiatric nursing.

If possible, try applying for an entry-level position in a field specializing in psychiatric nursing.

You can also ask for a psychiatric rotation at your hospital to gain experience and acquire the skills needed to become a professional psychiatric nurse.

Check if your state requires you to take a psychiatric mental health nursing certification.

If so, then gain the training necessary to become eligible for certification.

The following requirements must be satisfied for those required to take the certification exam.

Certification Exam Requirements

  • Have at least two years of experience working as a registered nurse
  • Have a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in psychiatric and mental health nursing within the last three years
  • Complete at least 30 hours of continuing education training/courses in psychiatric and mental health nursing within the previous three years

Even if you aren’t required to take the certification exam, you may still want to pursue becoming certified as a psychiatric nurse care specialist.

It looks good on your resume and demonstrates a clear understanding of performing your duties effectively and efficiently.

In addition, it gives your peers and coworkers confidence in your ability to provide professional care to patients needing psychiatric care.

Ask your local hospital, university, or college what the best course of action is to become a psychiatric nurse.

They can provide the knowledge you need to take the proper steps to become a professional in this field.

Finally, consider pursuing an advanced degree and becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

These healthcare experts have the broadest scope of practice and can provide higher levels of mental health care.

For instance, psychiatric nurse practitioners can open clinics and act as primary care providers.

They can also prescribe medications and diagnose conditions if needed.

With that said, a psychiatric nurse practitioner’s abilities vary by state.

Those working in reduced or restricted states have a lower scope of practice than those in full-practice states.

Four Steps to Become a Psychiatric Nurse

  1. Complete a nursing program (preferably a BSN degree)
  2. Gain experience as a registered nurse
  3. Earn your psychiatric nursing certification
  4. Pursue additional education to further your career

Why Start a Career as a Psychiatric Nurse

Psychiatric nurses work with a broad range of individuals.

It includes children, adolescents, and adults to help them lead more productive and happy lives.

In addition, they help individuals with substance abuse, eating disorders, and other mental health conditions.

Those who become psychiatric nurses can affect people’s lives in dramatic ways positively.

They become a beacon of hope and can help others develop better behaviors, patterns, outlooks, and routines.

As a result, the people they help lead better lives, contribute more to society and have better relationships with their family, friends, coworkers, and peers.

Psychiatric nursing is a gratifying career for those passionate about helping people with various aspects of mental health.

You improve the lives of the people with mental health ailments and improve the outcomes of those around them.