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What Does a Psychiatric Nurse Do?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Helping Those With Mental Health Needs

Sometimes, you have to go beyond just bandaging your kids' scraped knees on the playground to find yourself dealing with your child's hurt feelings. When counseling your child, you are getting a taste of what it means to be a psychiatric nurse. These health care professionals are nurses who specialize in mental health issues. As with most nursing specialties, a shortage of workers exists in the field, leading to potential employment for working moms.

Job Description

Psychiatric nurses assess and help address mental health needs in a variety of settings, from doctor's offices to community mental health clinics to family counseling. They work with patients with a range of mental health conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. In addition to working directly with patients, they help family members understand the issues surrounding their loved one's diagnosis and how to respond to their needs and behavior.

Education Requirements

Roles exist for psychiatric nurses at a number of education levels, starting with an associate's degree. The associate of science degree in nursing (ASN/ADN) takes two to three years to obtain. A four-year bachelor's degree, the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), adds increased responsibilities to the job, including leadership roles. Nurses at both these levels take science and health care classes, along with psychology. To become a psychiatric nurse, students must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered nurse.

Some psychiatric nurses continue on to get a master's degree or doctorate in the field. These advanced studies qualify them to diagnose mental health conditions and provide psychotherapy. At this level, they serve in roles similar to those of social workers and psychologists. Those who become nurse practitioners can also prescribe drugs to treat their patients' conditions.

About the Industry

Psychiatric nurses work in a variety settings, including hospitals, doctor offices, clinics run by local governments and in private practice. With an advanced degree, they may find work in universities to teach the next generation of nurses.

Salary and Years of Experience

Average pay for psychiatric registered nurses ranges from $46,595 to $82,490, according to Payscale.com. Those with less than five years of experience can expect to earn an average of $57,000. Pay increases with experience: Psychiatric nurses with five to 10 years of experience earn $62,000 on average; those with 10 to 15 years on the job average $65,000; and nurses with 20 or more years' experience earn from $66,000 to more than $80,000.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners can expect to earn a much higher salary, commensurate with their additional years of schooling. The pay range for them is $77,450 to $143,449, according to Payscale.com. Psychiatric nurse practitioners with less than five years' experience earn an average of $97,800, while those with five to 10 years of experience make $106,000. Those who have been on the job for 10 to 15 years average $109,000, and those with 20 or more years of experience earn $115,000 or more.

Job Growth Trend

Employment of registered nurses of all specialties is expected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than other occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the population ages, the need for nurses, particularly in long-term care facilities, will increase. And as hospitals continue to have shorter stays, more psychiatric nurses will be needed in outpatient programs and in home care.