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The role of nurses in mental health care

The significant shortage of nursing professionals in many healthcare settings today has resulted in high demand for nurses across the industry. As such, those who consider nursing as a career path have many significant options to choose from. There are various kinds of nursing careers; however, one largely unknown career path is the role of nurses in mental health care.

Psychiatric nursing is a specialized field that involves caring for individuals with mental health disorders. This field focuses on helping mental health patients recover and improve their quality of life. Mental health nursing can be a very demanding but rewarding career choice, with nurses responsible for caring for patients through their health conditions.

What do mental health nurses do?

In 2020, about 21% of US adults experienced some form of mental illness, representing one out of every five adults. A further 5.6% of US adults also experienced severe cases of mental illness. For some people, these conditions are triggered by specific circumstances, while others are affected by long-term chronic conditions.

The role of nurses in mental health care is to develop beneficial relationships with patients, their relatives and carers. Effective relationships are established by caring for patients and employing appropriate therapies and social activities. The process of helping a patient improve mentally is just as satisfying as every other healthcare service.

Some primary responsibilities of psychiatric nurses include the following:

  • Offering treatment to patients and ensuring medications are administered correctly
  • Understanding the root cause of a patient’s condition
  • Conducting personal therapy sessions
  • Effectively assembling and maintaining patient records
  • Evaluating patients by engaging in deep conversations with them
  • Monitoring recovery progress and sharing with the family
  • Ensuring all legal requirements are strictly followed

A variety of renowned institutions, such as Wilkes University, offer specialized programs for psychiatric nurses. These programs provide professionals with advanced knowledge of patient evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illnesses, which aids them in providing specialized care.

Frequently, psychiatric nurses work as part of a team that includes other health professionals to provide the best possible patient outcome. For instance, a group consisting of a psychiatric nurse and other healthcare workers can develop plans of care to help people with mental or behavioral conditions improve their general wellbeing.

Training and career paths

Several educational pathways can lead to a mental health nurse practitioner career. As with every other nursing specialization, individuals are first required to become registered nurses. This is followed by an advanced nursing practice degree specializing in psychiatry and mental health.

Mental health care nurses require the following specific competencies that enable them to carry out their responsibilities effectively:

  • Keen interest in the field of mental health
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Mental stability and self-awareness
  • Effective communication skills
  • Empathy

The range of environments available for psychiatric nurses to work in is vast. Aside from clinical settings, nurses provide mental health care through community agencies, substance abuse programs, assisted living facilities and patient homes.

Taking care of the mentally ill can be challenging, and the delicate nature of mental health conditions requires highly skilled professionals. In line with this, nurses remain some of the most essential professionals regarding mental health care, and their roles in this specialization will only continue to rise.

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