Degree level required to work as a psychiatric nurse?

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    I'm currently in the process of entering nursing school. I am finishing my prerequisites this up-coming semester. My goal is to become a psychiatric nurse or work in the ER. I want to learn diagnostic skills, critical thinking and autonomy. I figured psych nursing would be the best conduit to lead me to those goals. My question is will I be able to acquire a position in a psych-ward within a hospital if I am only an ADN? Or do I need to acquire a BSN before obtaining said position? Also do hospitals require prior experience in for ex. in surgical/med floor before hiring nurses? Any new suggestions on other slower-paced setting that fosters autonomy and critical thinking/diagnostic skills that an ADN new-grad could get into would be most appreciated. Thanks for any and all input!
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    This really depends on the hospital that you are applying to. It's definetly possible to work as a psych nurse with only a ADN, I have only a diploma in nursing (although I took the NCLEX-RN and work as a registered nurse). My first job was on a dual diagnosis unit and my current job is in a 30 bed adult psychiatric unit. I did work as a mental health worker in the time between graduating from nursing school and passsing the NCLEX. That gave me a broader view on what a psych nurse does. Good luck with everything!
    pyriticsilence and Meriwhen like this.
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    I was able to obtain a position at a small psychiatric hospital with only an LPN license.
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    I work in community mental health and I have an ADN.
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    You can definitely get a job on a psych unit with an associates degree.

    You said you want to learn diagnostic skills, critical thinking, and autonomy. Working most places as a nurse will give you those things. You also asked about other slower-paced settings. Psych isn't always slower-paced. Neither is ER, your other choice. When it's not slow-paced it can be overwhelming fast-paced in both those settings. I think you might have an unrealistic view of what things are like.
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    I worked as an LPN on a psych unit. Now as an ADN, I work in a private psych hospital.
    Psych nursing is not at all slow paced, except maybe on night shift and that's only if everyone is sleeping.
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    Definitely not slow-paced and a lot of multi-tasking. Some of the big hospitals want med/surg, some don't. I guess that's a matter of what you want to do - substance abuse, dual dx, adolescent, geriatric, forensic, developmentally-disabled, longer term and acute care, residential, outpatient, community, home health, etc. I just interviewed for behavioral health in the ER. Google behavioral health Nurse and you'll see a range of what different positions are looking for in requirements. We have LPNs, RNs (ADN and BSN), bachelor's level techs, NPs, therapists (MS) and psychiatrists.
    Last edit by NameOfTheWind on Aug 26, '12
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    I've worked with psych nurses ranging from diploma to MSN. I started in psych as an ADN. LVNs are also in psych. That being said...some facilities prefer degrees over diplomas, or prefer BSNs over ADNs. Ironically, most psych tech jobs require a 4 year degree, but nursing is all over the place.

    As far as finding a slower-pace setting....good luck Seriously, despite rumors to the contrary, psych nursing IS more than babysitting drugged-up or depressed patients. Nights may be the slower time in medical nursing, but in psych that's when a lot of our psychotic patients come to life. You could try looking for the less acute units (open units, residential, partial hospitalization), but definitely be prepared for anything to happen at any time.
    Last edit by Meriwhen on Sep 3, '12 : Reason: is, not isn't. My bad...
    pyriticsilence likes this.
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    I work psych and I'm an LPN.
  12. 2
    Quote from Alexanderjitsu
    Any new suggestions on other slower-paced setting ...
    Just to clarify, psych is NOT slower-paced.
    pyriticsilence and Meriwhen like this.


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