psych nursing

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    I am not in nursing school yet, but I like to plan ahead and would like to choose my specialty. Currently, I have a BA in psych and am thinking of doing psych nursing. However, I am not incredibly outgoing, even though I love psychology. I also have a lot of experience with family that has substance abuse issues and my own issues with depression. This allows me to relate to others better and I would truly love to help people with addictions. However, I was thinking about how I will have to eventually clean up throw up and use needles (which I am afraid of) and may grow to like the not so rosy rough work which made me think of oncology nursing. Two people in my family had breast cancer so I have some life experience. My real question essentially is if I should go into psych nursing for three reasons: my love of psychology, life experience, and not liking the rough work of nursing (needles, bodily fluids, throw up). Or if these are things I may get used to and should consider. I also am conflicted because I like volunteering in the hospital which you don't get to do as a psych nurse.

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  3. 10 Comments...

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    What's the not so rosy rough work you think you might grow to like?

    I think with your background in psych and experience with family members with addictions and your own depression you might be great as a psych nurse.

    You will get lots of experience with needles, bodily fluids, and throw up as a psych or addictions nurse. After awhile you do get more used to those things than when you begin.

    If you have trouble talking to people, that could be a problem. One of psych nurses' best tools is the ability to communicate. That gets easier with experience too.
    Topaz7 likes this.
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    I think you're jumping the gun a bit - you will get to experience a wide variety of nursing roles when in school, which will help you find where your interests really are. And the great thing about nursing is that you aren't typecast - you can work in psych for a while, work in oncology, ICU, L&D, and so on. Heck, you can work more than one job at a time, too.

    Psych isn't all about therapy and touchy-feely stuff. It's about keeping your patients safe when they can't (or don't want to) do it for themselves. Depending on the setting, it's highly physical, and you definitely give your share of injections and get splashed withenough bodily fluids. I've been spat on, (intentionally) bled on, vomited, urinated, and **** upon, had used feminine products thrown at me - washed my hair at work more times than I can count! And don't forget the death threats and insults upon one's person. But I wouldn't trade psych nursing for anything, because I really love this population.

    Don't put too much stock in personal experience, either - many psych professionals have their own battles, but this isn't always positively translated into good patient care. As I'm sure you know from your current degree, psych professionals have to be very self-aware, and to be on guard about how our personal experiences are affecting how we view our patients (transference, etc). Thick skin is crucial in any nursing role, but especially in psych.

    What do you mean by not being able to volunteer in the hospital as a psych nurse? RNs are RNs - we're just specialized, but are fully qualified to do anything another RN can do.
    Last edit by Meriwhen on Aug 5, '12 : Reason: Removing profanity
    elkpark likes this.
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    Thank you for your input. I agree that nursing school will be a great insight for me. I didn't know psych was so physically demanding. I expected it to be only cerebral. Thanks for clearing that up
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    Quote from taytay05
    Thank you for your input. I agree that nursing school will be a great insight for me. I didn't know psych was so physically demanding. I expected it to be only cerebral. Thanks for clearing that up
    A very common misconception. People often think that psych patients check their medical issues at the door so that all we have to do is sit with them in the dayroom and talk. Or they think that psych patients are so drugged/restrained that they lie there like little vegetables.

    Yes, a good portion of it is cerebral--therapeutic communication is one of your major interventions--but a lot of it is also hands-on.
    Hygiene Queen likes this.
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    Don't go into nursing , especially psych nursing to work through your own issues of codependency or depression. Empathy is a wonderful thing, identifying with patient issues will cause you a whole lot of problems. Agree with Meriwhen...Psych patients also have medical issues and tend to not always be compliant with managing medical issues which can create a huge problems. Not to mention a paranoid patient, who won't let you treat his/her medical issue....A psychotic patient with medical issues can try the patience of a saint. And if you go into addictions nursing, you're not going to wave a magic wand and they are never going to use substances again.....Detoxing someone sometimes means you give shots, clean up vomit and bm, and monitor a very serious medical condition....take vitals signs...recognize when you are being manipulated... And as a nurse YOU aren't always the one doing the 1:1's "Cerebral" Stuff.....You may be the ONLY RN for 18 patients, with counselors talking to the patients, you are passing meds, doing charting, taking orders off, admitting people, assessing people and coping with the Medical hand on stuff!!! You want to just talk to people, use your BS in psych.
    elkpark and Meriwhen like this.
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    I agree with all comments. You will definitely have to do all the things you don't want to do or are afraid to do.
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    I agree with everything you are saying, especially after talking to my mom who is a nurse recruiter. She says psych can be draining. Do you think it's different for psych nurse practitioners or it's just as grueling?
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    Being a psych nurse practitioner is differently grueling. Here's my experience from having done both. Being a generic psych nurse is very tiring from the fast pace and all that needs to be done. It's also draining to maneuver around and with all the disorders that sometimes are deeply rooted in bizarro land. She is responsible for all the patients on the unit, or at least for her large share. There's the cleanup of whatever needs cleaning--environmental or emotional. Due to all that has to be done, sometimes generic psych nurses don't get to spend much time with their patients, though. Spending time is what I've found to be the most interesting and also the most helpful to my patients. There are always some other people around when help is needed, and doctors and NPs should be available to get orders that are needed in intense situations. Generic psych nurses go home after their shifts, and develop an ability to "leave (most of) it at work."

    Nurse practitioners aren't responsible for all the patients, only for those they see. They aren't present with any one particular patient for the whole day, or with the whole unit of patients. Often, they are on call 24/7 though. During those times, it's very difficult to sleep because you expect to get called to come in and usually do. NPs do initial physical assessments and if they're working in place of a psychiatrist, do the psychiatric care too. The buck stops with them, in other words. Nurse practitioners can work in outpatient settings to see patients there. This has its own positives and negatives. In outpatient they get to know their patients better, over the longterm, which can be very rewarding. They also can be confronted, in an isolated office, by a patient who is out of control, with no one around to help. They, too, develop an ability to leave it at work, but that's hard when they're on call 24/7.
    cathy903 likes this.
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    Trust me you WILL see med/surg type stuff in psych. I work at a community agency that serves clients with serious mental illness (SMI). Many have substance abuse issues too. In general our population is not a very healthy bunch. Some of it is r/t the metabolic problems caused by the meds (insulin resistance, weight gain), some of it is r/t being poor, smoking like a chimney (the smi population has some pretty heavy smokers), trouble making healthy choices, and the abuse the body takes from high risk behaviors. A HUUUUGE percentage of our clients have chronic somatic diseases. So you will see it. And we give a ton of IMs too, so you will use needles.
    Meriwhen likes this.

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