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About Issues in Psychiatric Nursing

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All nurses must continuously monitor their patients’ state of mind, but dedicated psychiatric nurses primarily deal with the disorders that affect the psyche. Many issues affect nurses trained to promote mental health and treat psychiatric disorders. Changing demographics, violence in the workplace and barriers to treatment are just some of the problems psychiatric nurses face in their day-to-day practices.


Nurses must follow the rules and statutes in the states where they practice. Evolving standards require that in some states, nurses who treat psychiatric patients earn additional accreditation in the specialty. Psychiatric nurses may need to obtain additional certifications that cover the advanced standards of care, such as advanced practice care nurses, nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists. The additional training to obtain the credentials includes study in areas such as symptom management, physiological causes of mental illness, various social elements of recovery and substance abuse recovery.


Psychiatric nurses face violence at work at higher rates than other workers, even those in other health care environments. The American Psychiatric Nursing Association reports that in 2011, 72 percent of psychiatric nurses responding to a survey said that violence at work is both tolerated and expected. While hospitals and psychiatric treatment facilities may write zero-tolerance policies when it comes to workplace risk for nurses, the issue remains a constant challenge for nurses in the field. Sufficient staffing and safety measures such as video surveillance and self-locking doors are just a few of the issues nurses promote to reduce the levels of risk they face in their work.


Much of the practice performed by psychiatric nurses relies on outdated and incorrect information, according to the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Relapse rates for patients with eating disorders, adolescent suicide rates and treatment of patients with a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental illness are just a few of the issues that psychiatric nurses face with little or no new research or quality treatment options. The practice of psychiatric nursing shouldn't rely on anecdotal information or old wives’ tales, yet in many cases, it does.


Changes in the health care system as well as consumer demands create issues about long-term recovery goals and initiatives for treating psychiatric patients. Research in the field indicates that mental illness and substance abuse recovery include ongoing follow-up. Housing, employment, family relationships and medication are a few of the issues psychiatric nurses must address when creating and applying treatment plans for patients, often referred to as clients or residents instead of patients to promote continued well-being. Social work and workforce development aspects are increasingly becoming part of psychiatric nurses’ areas of responsibility.


About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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