how to become a psychiatric nurse

How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse

If you have a desire to help people cope with mental health conditions and are good at communication, the psychiatric nurse practitioner profession is for you. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to become a psychiatric nurse. From the required qualifications to the steps involved, we have you covered. Let’s dive in. 

What is a Psychiatric Nurse?

Psychiatric nurses are registered nurses with either a degree is master’s or doctorate. Like doctors, NPs can have a specialization. They can work as mental health professionals, primary care clinicians, pediatrics, etc. 

The profession requires a diverse set of skills including nursing, neurobiological, and psychological skills. Primarily, they assess, diagnose, and care for patients with mental health conditions. 

Demand for Psychiatric Nurses

According to research, 1 in every 8 people in the world have some sort of mental health disorder. These include but aren’t limited to, depression, anxiety, and addiction. Many of these patients require a comprehensive treatment plan. 

This is why mental health professionals like psychiatric nurses are in high demand in the industry. 

What Do Psychiatric Nurses Do?

Psychiatric nurses work in the mental health department of a healthcare facility. They assess patients’ mental condition, diagnose problems, and suggest a treatment plan, just like a doctor would. They may also carry out different tests before proposing a personalized treatment plan. 

Nurses are also responsible for working with other mental health professionals like specialists, doctors, and hospital staff. In addition to that, they’re often given the responsibility to educate and support patients’ families. Depending on the exact role, they also play a role in policy formulation to effectively address the latest concerns and developments in the healthcare industry. 

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What Illnesses Do Psychiatric Nurses Treat?

what illnesses do psychiatric nurses treat

As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you diagnose, treat, and educate patients on a variety of mental health conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Trauma-induced disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality dysfunction
  • Disruptive behavior

Where Do Psychiatric Nurses Work?

Psychiatric nurses work in a variety of healthcare environments, including:

  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • Drug and alcohol treatment centers
  • Schools
  • Private clinics
  • Assisted-living homes
  • Mental health institutions

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How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

Here’s how you can become a successful psychiatric nurse.

Complete Educational Requirements

To become a registered mental health nurse, you’ll need to get a three-year degree, which will equip you with the skills and knowledge to offer effective patient care. The courses throughout the degree are divided into two parts: Theoretical and practical. Moreover, during your training, you may be required to travel to different places like rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and more. 

Get the Right Skills

The role of a psychiatric nurse practitioner or a mental health nurse is nothing less than a challenge. It can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health. 

Some important skills you need to be an effective mental health nurse are:


As a nurse practitioner, you’re often faced with challenging situations. To navigate such situations and offer effective patient care, you need strong problem-solving skills. 


When working in a mental health setting, there’s a high chance of encountering violence and aggression. Psychiatric nurses are trained to manage aggressive patients without losing their cool. 


Mental health nurses also need to observe their patients. They should be able to assess them for aggression and self-harm and keep everybody safe. 


Communicating with patients and their families is an important part of the role. You need to listen to what patients have to say, understand their issues, and propose a solution accordingly. 

Gain Experience

It can be tough to get a job at a reputable organization without experience. But, there are a few easy ways to get your toes wet. One of the most effective ways to gain experience is by doing non-paid or paid internships. Internships let you experience a professional environment, getting you ready for a full-time job. Another way would be to offer your services to a non-profit organization. 

Apply for Positions

Once you have some experience at your back, find relevant job posts and apply to them. Start by creating a professional resume. Add your qualifications, skills, and experiences. Plus, write a customized cover letter every time you apply to a position. A cover letter should include the reasons why someone should hire you. 

To apply for relevant jobs, you can use job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn. In addition to directly applying to jobs, build your network by interacting with the right people online. Join LinkedIn and Facebook groups in your industry and keep an eye out for new opportunities. 

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How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse: FAQs

How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse: FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about becoming a psychiatric nurse. 

How Much Does a Psychiatric Nurse Earn in the UK?

Mental health nursing is a financially rewarding job. On average, a psychiatric nurse makes £22.52 per hour in the UK. 

Can a UK Mental Health Nurse Work in the US?

Yes, it’s possible to work in the US if you’re a registered nurse in the UK by getting the required visa. Commonly, the H-1B visa is used for employment in the US. 

What Qualifications Do I Need to Be a Mental Health Nurse UK?

To be a mental health nurse in the UK, you need five GCSEs at grade 4/C or above plus two A levels. For some universities, you’ll need 3 A levels. 


A psychiatric or mental health nurse helps patients with mental health conditions. Their role is normally to assess and diagnose an underlying condition and propose a solution. Psychiatric nurses also provide emotional and educational support to patients and their families. 

To become a psychiatric nurse, skills like problem-solving, communication, and conflict resolution come in handy. You can work as an intern or offer your services to a non-profit to gain experience initially. In addition to gaining experience, you should also strive for constant learning and skill acquisition. 

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