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Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse

Psychiatric nursing has its roots in the 1800’s after government officials deemed it beneficial for mental hospital patients to receive nursing care. This field has changed significantly since then. In fact, many schools now offer bachelor’s degrees in psychiatric nursing. Qualified nurses are needed throughout the psychiatric/mental health industry since better treatments are now available to mental health patients. Psychiatric nurses with work experience and specialized training often begin careers as advanced practitioners. Psychiatric nurses play an important role in the treatment and recovery process of people struggling with mental illness who are doing their best to live happy lives.

Occupational Roles

Psychiatric nurses working in clinical environments are categorized as advanced or basic practitioners. Those classified as basic practitioners assess patients, discuss patients’ conditions with family members, and determine whether patient care plans are effective. These specialists also help patients unable to cope with mental illness, meet with individuals considering interventions for family members and friends with drug and alcohol problems, and individuals recovering from mental illness. Basic practitioners teach patients about independent living, preventative care, and recommend changes for people serious about lifestyle changes. Certain basic practitioners offer basic counseling, setup drug and alcohol abuse interventions, and participate in mental health education campaigns.

Advanced psychiatric nursing practitioners hold master’s degrees. Once they finish clinical training, these practitioners can specialize in adult psychiatric, adolescent, or pediatric nursing. Advanced psychiatric nursing practitioners are assigned basic and advanced responsibilities assessing, diagnosing, and counseling people with mental health problems. These specialists offer all sorts of mental health therapy and counseling services to individuals, couples, groups, and families. Many advanced psychiatric nursing practitioners become licensed as psychotherapists. In some states, advanced psychiatric nursing practitioners can prescribe controlled substances. Likewise, advanced practitioners provide patient care at state agencies, community centers, and psychiatric hospitals and clinics. Some advanced practitioners work exclusively in consultation and liaison nursing. Additionally, many advanced practitioners discuss patients’ mental health with doctors and other medical professionals.

Since psychiatric nurses must take classes in psychiatry, biology, mental health, pharmacology, sociology, counseling, and psychology, they are highly-valued and well-rounded specialists on the medical teams they’re assigned too.


Psychiatric nurses can specialize in geriatric, adult, and adolescent psychiatry, in addition to certain mental health problems, including schizophrenia, substance abuse, and eating disorders. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers training programs for psychiatric nurses interested in specialization.


Psychiatric nurses must understand substance abuse diagnosis, biological and psychological factors contributing to mental illness, psychotherapeutic modalities, psychiatric ethics, record keeping, psychopharmacology, and other concepts that must be understood to treat mental illness.

Psychiatric nurses must be good communicators, have good organizational and analytical skills, understand psychiatric diagnosis, be good counselors, and understand how to monitor patients under the influence of powerful psychopharmacologic drugs.

Practice Settings

Psychiatric nurses treat patients within in and outpatient settings, such as veterans’ hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, community centers, and psychiatric clinics. Psychiatric nurses can also be found at prisons, schools, military hospitals, and general hospitals.

Salary Range

Psychiatric nurses who provide basic care usually make between $25,000 - 47,000 a year, but salaries differ by region.

Advanced practitioners (APRN-PMH) make more money, anywhere between $50,000 - 70,000 annually.


Basic practitioners usually hold nursing degrees at the associates or bachelors levels.

Advanced practitioners (APRN-PMH) hold masters or doctorate degrees and are licensed with the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

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Psychologists specialize in analyzing human behavior and brain function. They study all features of human experience, including child development, cognitive function, and human relationships. Psychology offers a wide array of career opportunities.

Salary: $30,000 - $78,654

Education: 4 - 8 Years (beyond high school)

Job Outlook: Excellent

Learn more...