Psychiatric Nurse Jobs

What does a Psychiatric Nurse do?

Psychiatric nursing is a highly specialized field that involves the care of patients with mental health issues. Psychiatric nurses provide care to patients with a range of mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Psychiatric nurses may work in different environments, such as hospitals, mental health clinics, community health centers, private practices, government agencies, and correctional facilities.

The duties of a psychiatric nurse can differ in each workplace, but some of the most common responsibilities include:

– Assessment and diagnosis of mental health disorders.

– Developing and implementing individualized care plans for patients.

– Administering and monitoring medication.

– Providing therapy and counseling to patients and their families.

– Providing patient education and support.

– Collaborating with other healthcare professionals.

– Documenting and charting patient progress.

One of the biggest challenges of working as a psychiatric nurse is dealing with patients who may be aggressive or have suicidal tendencies. Additionally, the emotional toll of caring for patients with severe mental health issues can be significant. Burnout and compassion fatigue are common among psychiatric nurses, and it can be challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Despite these challenges, many psychiatric nurses report a high level of job satisfaction due to the impact they can make in their patient’s lives. Moreover, the outlook for the psychiatric nursing profession is promising, with an increasing demand for mental health services in the United States. As the stigma surrounding mental health issues continues to decrease, more people are seeking treatment for their mental health conditions. This has led to a growing need for skilled psychiatric nurses to provide specialized care.

In addition to being a career that is experiencing increasing demand, psychiatric nursing is also among the most well-compensated nursing specialties. Not only is psychiatric nursing a well-paid profession, but it also offers a variety of opportunities for growth and advancement. With experience and further education, psychiatric nurses can specialize in areas such as child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, or substance abuse treatment. They can also become nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists, which may lead to increased responsibilities and higher salaries.

It’s important to note the difference between a psychiatric nurse and a psychiatric nurse practitioner. While both work in the mental health field, psychiatric nurse practitioners have advanced education and training, allowing them to diagnose and treat mental health disorders, prescribe medication, and provide therapy. Psychiatric nurses, on the other hand, work under the direction of a physician or nurse practitioner and provide more general care for patients with mental health disorders.


How to become a Psychiatric Nurse

The following steps are typically required to become a psychiatric nurse or nurse practitioner:

– Education: the first step to becoming a psychiatric nurse is to obtain a nursing degree from an accredited nursing program. This can be a diploma, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. These programs typically take 2-4 years to complete, and coursework includes anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and patient care.

– Licensure: after completing your nursing degree, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered nurse (RN). This exam measures your competency in basic nursing skills and knowledge.

– Experience: to work in psychiatric nursing, you will need to gain experience in the field. This can be obtained by working in a mental health clinic, hospital psychiatric unit, or community mental health center. This experience helps you develop the necessary skills to work with patients who have mental health conditions.

– Certification: to become a certified psychiatric nurse, you will need to pass the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification exam, which is offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. This certification demonstrates your specialized knowledge and skillset in psychiatric nursing.

– Advanced Degree: if you aspire to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner (PNP), you will need to obtain a master’s degree in nursing with a specialization in psychiatric mental health. This program typically takes 2-3 years to complete and includes coursework in advanced nursing practice, pharmacology, and psychiatric care.

– Licensure as a PNP: after completing your master’s degree program, you will need to pass a certification exam to become licensed as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. This certification exam is offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. As a PNP, you will have the authority to diagnose and treat patients with mental health conditions, prescribe medications, and provide therapy.

– Certification: the certification exam for psychiatric practitioners (Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)) is applied by the ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center) and it assesses the clinical knowledge and skills of the entry-level PMHNP reliably and validly. The exam is competency-based and aims to provide an accurate evaluation of the PMHNP’s abilities.


Skills of a Psychiatric Nurse

To be an effective and successful psychiatric nurse, several skills are necessary, including:

– Assessment skills: psychiatric nurses must have the ability to assess patients’ mental and emotional states, identify symptoms and behaviors, and evaluate the impact of mental health conditions on patients’ lives.

– Communication skills: effective communication is essential in psychiatric nursing, as nurses must be able to communicate with patients, family members, and other healthcare providers. Good communication skills involve active listening, empathy, and the ability to provide clear and concise instructions.

– Emotional intelligence: this is one of the main skills that psychiatric nurses must possess. These nurses must have strong emotional intelligence and the ability to understand and manage their own emotions, as well as the emotions of their patients. This involves self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

– Pharmacology knowledge: psychiatric nurses must have a solid understanding of pharmacology, including the types of medications used to treat mental health conditions, their side effects, and potential drug interactions.

– Crisis management skills: psychiatric nurses must be able to manage crises that may arise, such as suicidal or violent behavior. This involves the ability to de-escalate situations, assess risk, and take appropriate actions to ensure patient safety.

– Cultural competency: psychiatric nurses must be culturally competent and able to work with patients from diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and values. 

– Therapeutic skills: psychiatric nurses must have the ability to provide therapy and counseling to patients, and work collaboratively with other healthcare providers to develop individualized treatment plans.

– Technology skills: with the increasing use of technology in healthcare, psychiatric nurses must be comfortable using electronic health records, telemedicine, and other digital tools to provide patient care.


Salary of a Psychiatric Nurse

The average salary for a psychiatric nurse in the United States is $80,513 per year, with an estimated total pay of $84,475 per year, which includes additional pay of $3,962, according to Glassdoor. This additional pay may come in the form of cash bonuses, commissions, tips, or profit sharing. Meanwhile, a psychiatric nurse practitioner can expect an estimated total pay of $128,678 per year, with an average salary of $120,086 per year, according to Glassdoor. The additional pay for a psychiatric nurse practitioner is estimated to be $8,592 per year.



Q: Is psychiatric nursing a good career? 

A: Yes, psychiatric nursing can be a fulfilling and rewarding career for those who are passionate about helping individuals with mental health issues. The demand for mental health services is increasing, which means that there is a growing need for skilled psychiatric nurses. Additionally, psychiatric nursing offers competitive salaries and opportunities for career growth and advancement.

Q: How long is a psychiatric nurse practitioner program? 

A: The length of a psychiatric nurse practitioner program can vary depending on the specific program and the student’s previous education and experience. Generally, a psychiatric nurse practitioner program can take from two to four years to complete. Most programs require students to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and a current Registered Nurse (RN) license, though some programs may accept students with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s degree in a related field.

Q: Are psychiatric nurse practitioners happy? 

A: Many psychiatric nurse practitioners report high levels of job satisfaction and fulfillment in their work. This may be because they have the opportunity to work closely with individuals with mental health conditions, provide personalized care, and have a positive impact on their patients’ lives. Additionally, psychiatric nurse practitioners may have the ability to work in different environments and have greater autonomy in their practice, which can also contribute to job satisfaction.

Q: Where do psychiatric nurse practitioners work? 

A: Psychiatric nurse practitioners can work in hospitals, mental health clinics, private practices, community health centers, and schools. They may also work in telehealth settings, providing mental health services remotely through videoconferencing or other technologies.

Q: How to become a certified psychiatric nurse? 

A: To become a certified psychiatric nurse, individuals must first become registered nurses (RN) by completing an accredited nursing program and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. After gaining experience in the field of psychiatric nursing, nurses can pursue certification as a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse (PMHN) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Nurses Association (ANA). Certification typically requires additional education and clinical experience in psychiatric nursing, as well as passing a certification exam.

Q: Are psychiatric nurse practitioners in demand? 

A: Yes, psychiatric nurse practitioners are in high demand due to the increasing need for mental health services in the United States. The future outlook for psychiatric nurses is positive due to a combination of factors. The demand for mental health services is increasing in the United States, driven in part by a growing awareness of the importance of mental health and the prevalence of mental health conditions. Also, there is a shortage of mental health providers, particularly in rural and underserved areas, which creates opportunities for psychiatric nurses to fill the gap. Another factor to consider is that advances in technology and telehealth are making it easier for psychiatric nurses to provide mental health services remotely, which can increase access to care for patients. Finally, as the healthcare industry shifts towards a more patient-centered and team-based approach to care, psychiatric nurses are well-positioned to play a key role in providing comprehensive and coordinated mental health care.



American Nurses Credentialing Center. (n.d.). Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) Certification. Retrieved from

Glassdoor. (n.d.). Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Salaries. Retrieved from,30.htm?clickSource=careerNav

American Psychiatric Nurses Association. (n.d.). Career Center. Retrieved from