How does a psych career affect the psych nurses?

  1. I have a question regarding how does a psych career affect the psych nurses. I mean, since this is all pretty much mental, does it affect psych nurses?

    Let me know your thoughts........please only comments from people that have actually done or are doing a psych nursing....
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  2. 35 Comments

  3. by   humglum
    I'm a psych nurse, and one who doesn't really understand your question. Care to clarify? What information are you looking for, exactly?
  4. by   elkpark
    I would be happy to try to answer (~20 years in psych nursing), but I also don't understand what you are asking -- ???
  5. by   Thunderwolf
    I think the poster is asking "how does psych nursing as a career affect a psych nurse's mental health?" or does it?

    I really believe, in answering this question, that it depends upon the nurse and how much exposure he/she has been through (before and during this career), the nurse's own coping mechanisms towards stress and exposure, current support systems, and the presence/status of current mental/emotional problems the nurse may have on board himself/herself.

    Nursing as a field can be high burnout, depending upon the above factors just listed. Many nurses walk into psych with their own psych issues...some unresolved, some working on, some in denial, and maybe a pleasant few, not having any all. But, the field does tend to attract and gravitate folks towards it. Why?...because of their issues and/or past exposure, possibly in one's own family. In this sense, we are like CD counselors in a way...often they are ex-CD patients themselves or had family issues in CD issues. CD=chemical dependency, as an FYI.

    I was a psych nurse for 10 years. I was a CNS. I left the field when I developed PTSD with resultant depression. I chose to leave the field because I felt it was the right thing to do and I needed a change. I burned out due to lots of stress in my life which I didn't have much control over and overwhelmed me at the time. Will I go back to psych? Maybe another 10 years from now...but, what's the rush? I was good at what I did then in my career as a psych nurse, until the illness struck, and I know it, as well as my peers then. I still use my knowledge base as a psych nurse on my med surg floor, but in a different way. I can usually deal with difficult patients that other nurses have difficulty handling. When a schizophrenic patient or a bipolar patient or borderline patient comes on our floor (for surgery), I can work with the patient...where other nurses may feel intimidated by the mental health illness. So, in a way, my psych career sort of headed in a different direction in a way. In a small way, I never left. My career just changed a little.

    I'm been med free, doc free, and counselor free for the past two and one half years. The nature of my stressors are no way near the same as they were which set off my illness then. Do I talk about my illness much? The answer is no. Still alot of stigma attached...even amongst mental health professionals. I can't tell you how many nurses, psychologists, and psychiatrists that I've met during my 10 year stint that have their own mental health issues but keep it under the rug, even from each other. This is sort of sad, in a way. Often, the ones for help in most need don't get it or get it soon enough.

    I hope this answers your question.
  6. by   truthtutor
    I totally understand to posters question also, I worked in psych for most of my nursing career, I have always loved psychology. the brain/mind is so complex and we all can be a few thoughts or one thought away from needing committment. some of us have chemical imbalances that causes us to act out and require treatment others have situation circumstances and for whatever reason are able to endure and function on the outside. working children/youth units I loved the nuturing/guidance provided to the children and some did have clinical depression or psychosis and to see them turn around enough to be placed back into their environment was very rewarding, same goes for those adults. some cases as far as the children were heart breaking and challenging. I think every nurse is a psych nurse if you are dealing with a living individual-you have to take a holistic approach in any type of nursing field dealing with different personalities not of just patients but also family members of the patient. Yes psychiatric nursing can affect you in many different ways but again in agreement with "wolfie" it depends on amount of exposure and our own coping mechanisms if this is an appropriate field of nursing-not everyone wants to deal with adverse behaviors--which sometimes makes us look deeper into ourselves.
  7. by   showbizrn
    I learned what pushed my "buttons" and the most effective responses in both my professional and personal life.

    Psych Nursing taught me NOT to take "no stuff" from anyone. THAT'S ANYONE!

    I also learned not to take myself too seriously.

    I also learned to take frequent vacations-----See Ya!:spin:
  8. by   NPAlby
    I'm a travel psych rn and the last two assignments (at the same hospital) have had a negative affect on me. My first unit was MICA and now the CPEP (psych ED). I've always pretty much enjoyed my patients and felt what I was doing worthwhile but those feelings are coming fewer and further in between. In the psych ed I see the same patients come in day to day and become a big burden to the system. I mean literally the same patient. We have pts come in 2-4 times a day with the same complaint and there not even homeless! In MICA I met the most entitled patients ever, staff would actually hide from the patients because they were so demanding and needy when we were out there. I know it wasn't the most therapuetic way of handling myself but at times I thought it was a lot better than tending to a patient with my pissed off attitude. Luckily Im a travler and hope to start a different assignment with a more positive attitude ( I really used to have one!).
  9. by   Weeping Willow
    I think I recognize mental issues more easily. Also, I realize there is often very little I can do about them except be calm, courteous, pleasant, humorous. I try to enjoy life now, not wait for it to get better.

    I try to just be more accepting and less worried or judging of myself or others. We all have lots of difficulties and should try to focus on the good in our lives and the positive aspects in other people.

    Psych can be physically dangerous. I'm very alert at all times, at work and in public. At home, too.
  10. by   justjill
    i'm currently in my third year of psych nursing on an inpatient community acute care facility. i've working in several other areas of nursing....but psych is very different for me than the other areas.

    nursing as a general profession is draining...but for ME, psych nursing is challenging me in ways other areas have not.

    i've found i'm a better listener. not only do i have to hear what the person is saying, i also have to hear what they are NOT saying and try to determine what is really going on. because of this i've become a better communicator/listener/helper/friend.

    i understand now the devastating toll mental illness takes on people and families. but i've also seen people rise above--people who refused to allow their mental illness define who they were.

    i'm a much more cynical person now. i've been lied to, manipulated, and tested by the best of 'em. i don't like this part of psych nursing. i don't like being skeptical of people and their motives, but i feel if i had NOT learned this, i would not survive in psych.

    i am an assertive person after working in psych. people do not take advantage of me any more......i've seen first hand what could happen if you allow people to walk all over you. i have no problem telling it like it is.....and i have no problem confronting people who need confronting.

    i've learned what real teamwork is in regards to nursing. when i am working night with just two female mental health workers and a full unit of clients, i know my safety lies in my MHW's hands. we work as a team....look out for each other....and have to trust each other.


    these are the things that come to mind. i do think working in psych has changed me. some negatives, some positives.....but for me, the positives outweigh the negatives.
  11. by   tlc365
    i've found i'm a better listener. not only do i have to hear what the person is saying, i also have to hear what they are NOT saying and try to determine what is really going on. because of this i've become a better communicator/listener/helper/friend.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------
    That's a good point!
    Working in this area of nursing def. challenges what you think, see, feel and how you react. I have worked with the eating disorder population and 97% have co morbid mental health dx.
    I started in this field with the "rose colored glasses" approach after 2.5 yrs I am really more aware of the underlying issues to what makes people tick. I have also learned a lot about myself and have had to undergo counseling and some group therapy to address topics such as appropriate Boundaries and Countertransferrance with patients.
    I agree that being a psych nurse does affect you as a person. When working in Med-Surg I did obviously see people who had a mental health illness but working day to day in a psych facility has its own set of challenges.
  12. by   TopazStone
    Thank you for writing this post. I am pretty sure I am reaching burnout levels as a psych nurse. I can still feel empathy for the patients who are in a psychotic break and I have a soft spot for the young adults who are entering the system for the first time. The people who manipulate the system to escape drug dealers, maintain public assistance, get out of legal charges, parents who want to get away from an unruly child, social workers who train people to abuse the system ("If you were suicidal, we could help you")....I've about had it. How did you get out of psych?
  13. by   aloevera
    but you are also going to see "frequent flyers" in the ER and in other areas of nursing as well....I know it gets trying at times, but I just laugh a lot, goof off and take mini-breaks !!! (not all at work, you see.) And I don't bring work home with me...I may discuss some issues with a good friend once in a while, but I try to leave work at work.
  14. by   psynurs
    I agree that you must "go goofy" once in a while to keep your sanity...
    But all in all working in mental health has really given me great insight and helped me in other areas of life. I now have more patience with people and can recognize behavior disorders and most of all have learned to "not take things said personally"....that is number one priority working with psychotic pts. and/or addicted pts. It has broadened my communications skills and helped me to listen more intently. I would have to say working psych has indeed improved my life.

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