I wanted to post this for new grads who are perhaps in the same position that I was in about 6 months ago. I did nursing as a second degree, my first love was always mental health. I've always been very passionate about protecting the mentally ill. As I was nearing the end of nursing school
, I couldn't stop thinking about how much I wanted to be a psych nurse... I could feel it in my BONES but it seemed like every time I had a thought about psych nursing as a new grad, I had another thought of "well... maybe I should do some med surg first. Just to be safe. Just in case." Because that's what everyone had told me to do.
Just to be safe from WHAT? I hated med surg during my clinical rotations. I learned a ton and I respected the process of healing on a med surg floor.... but I hated it. So why should I have done med surg nursing "just in case" when I knew I was never going to do med surg? But... that didn't stop those "just in case..." thoughts from invading my head as I was choosing my future.
I met with a nursing instructor/mentor before graduation to talk about my dilemma. To this day I am so grateful for her pushing me to do psych. She told me quite bluntly to just follow my gut. She told me that in her opinion, nurses on med-surg floors should get mental health nursing experience before walking onto a med-surg floor because mental illness hits everyone, everywhere. She gave me that "push" to do what I know I'm meant to be doing. She told me that psych is the future.... more and more people are carrying the weight of a mental illness.
I have been lucky to begin working as a new grad on a unit with an incredibly supportive team, a phenomenal nursing manager who coaches me and mentors me and supports me, and a very steady, consistent orientation in a hospital where therapeutic communication and milieu safety are of up top most importance. On my unit, I have only seen one restraint, and it was absolutely necessary at the time. It's been 3 months. My preceptors are supportive, my manager creates a safe working environment and validates my concerns, a lot of the time my coworkers are laughing and dancing to music hour or zumba group... I can't say enough good things about it. I lucked out.
HOWEVER, with that being said.... I wanted to tell all of you brand new nurses who are about to go out there interviewing TO LISTEN TO YOUR GUT. I was smart. My first interview was on a different unit in a different facility where the nurses looked burnt out, the unit looked run down, the furniture was torn up, the manager offered me the job 5 minutes into the interview..... and I went home from my interview with a bad, sinking feeling in my stomach. Nursing is a small world and I still hear stories about the nurses being miserable and treating each other poorly on that floor. I had a feeling not to accept a position there. I was lucky enough to receive an offer at the same time from the employer I work for now, but I just wanted to say.... if something feels off to you, if the facility seems a little shady, if the nurses look really tired and burnt out... chances are you may burn out quickly too. If your interview lasts an hour and a half and your future manager is asking you so many intense questions that your head is spinning... take it as a good sign. He/She knows what she's doing. If an offer is granted to you within 5 minutes... be wary.
I am so thankful that my nursing mentor pushed me to do psych nursing that I want to pay it forward and inspire those who may be thinking about doing psych nursing right after graduation. I am so happy where I am. There isn't a day when I don't come home satisfied from my job. I think it is a privilege to be a psych nurse, to be there for that patient who is SO vulnerable and SO impacted by their mental illness that they would do anything to release the pain.... it is a privilege to be the person who has opportunity to begin a conversation with that patient, to ask them for their story. I feel like I am where I am supposed to be, and I don't intend on leaving this unit or this hospital or psychiatric nursing until I retire! No, I don't feel like I'm missing any "skills." Yes, we still insert foley catheters. Yes, our patients still require wound changes. Yes, our patients are still in wheel chairs with arm and leg hard casts and require skin care and ROM exercises. Yes, our patients do need immediate medical attention. Yes, I am still learning medical skills! Yes, I am IV certified! Almost all nurses are trained to perform "skills" but how many nurses can sit down with a patient who is hearing derogatory auditory hallucinations, and make him or her feel safe?
If you want to do psych nursing, just DO IT. Follow your gut. But be smart. Keep your eyes open and your mind sharp when you're going in for interviews. Observe the unit, the patients, the environment. Don't settle, unless you absolutely have no choice. I do not regret for a SECOND that I didn't start with med surg or any other unit like that. I hear my friends from nursing school talk about everything they experience on their med surg floors and I just sigh... because I know I would be absolutely miserable there, and I am so thankful I didn't put myself through that "just because."
Do what you love and you will be happy. It's that easy.