Psych RN job right after BSN graduation

  1. 0
    Hello all,

    I'm planning to most likely go on to get a PMHNP degree at some point, but currently I'm just a sophomore in college. I'm wondering what kinds of psych jobs I could get as a recently graduated RN. I really want to work in outpatient but have heard that it's difficult for new grads. What do you all think? Also, what would a typical job description be for me if I worked as a psych RN right out of school?

    Thanks!!
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  4. 8 Comments so far...

  5. 2
    Generally speaking, outpatient mental health jobs are given to nurses with floor experience in the specialty. I have done both and have enjoyed both. Outpatient tends to be a bit more relaxed, because generally these are people who have already had inpatient treatment and the immediate crisis is past. Helping people with acute problems can also be rewarding, though. It takes a degree of skill - which you will acquire as you go along - to work inpatient mental health. A calm demeanor and a non-judgmental attitude are definite pluses.

    My first job out of nursing school was on a hospital inpatient mental health unit. This was a brand new unit and they were hiring for all positions (and the fact that I also have a BA in psychology helped to give me an edge in getting hired, IMO). Learning the ins and outs takes a little time, as does developing an instinct regarding dealing with patients and handling crisis situations.

    Most likely you will be part of a nursing team under a charge nurse. You will develop care plans and direct the delivery of care. One thing to remember in mental health is that, unlike many other specialties, just because you are the RN doesn't mean that you are necesarily the best choice to handle every situation. You may have an LPN or tech who has a good rapport with a particular patient, and that person might be the best choice to handle a difficult situation with that patient. Check your ego at the door when it comes to handling patients.

    Best of luck to you in your new career.
    Hygiene Queen and priorities2 like this.
  6. 2
    The last place I worked before going on disability was a large urban jail psych unit. I was there for almost 10 years, but had about 15 years experience in psych prior to that. I can only speak for the Philadelphia prisons, but when I was there, they often hired folks with little or no experience. Jail systems offer a wide variety of experiences with patients of all types and diagnoses. They also have been utilizing NP's a lot more in the last few years, and you could probably find yourself several mentors. I myself was thinking of going the NP route, but at my age I would never recoup the financial investment it would take to go back to school, plus I am frankly tired of school. If you have any more questions, please feel free to email me. Sorry for any misspelling--iPad, you know!!
    Orca and priorities2 like this.
  7. 0
    Orca and ddunnrn, thanks for your advice and warm wishes. I think it's great to know to remember to check your ego when working with psych patients. I bet it's possible to learn a lot from their growth and watching them get well!

    I do have one other question. What can I while still in college to make myself more able to get an outpatient job upon graduation? I really want one because I feel I would do well at that kind of work. I would be willing to work in inpatient, but just want to see if you have any advice with regard to preparing my resume/my skills now to get an outpatient job.
    Last edit by priorities2 on Dec 13, '12
  8. 0
    In my experience, employers are looking for experienced psychiatric nurses for outpatient jobs. Most psych nurses start out working on inpatient units and move into outpatient jobs after they have gotten a few years of experience. (Of course, as soon as I post that, eight people will post that they started in outpatient psych fresh out of school ... Anything's possible, I guess!)
  9. 0
    Quote from priorities2
    I do have one other question. What can I while still in college to make myself more able to get an outpatient job upon graduation? I really want one because I feel I would do well at that kind of work. I would be willing to work in inpatient, but just want to see if you have any advice with regard to preparing my resume/my skills now to get an outpatient job.
    I graduated at a time of nursing surplus. One thing I did that my less fortunate classmates did not (I was one of the few to have a job lined up before graduation) was to send blind letters and resumes to all the hospitals in my area prior to graduation. I was fortunate to get in on the ground floor of a hospital opening up a new mental health unit. I had a job interview and got an offer about a week before we took our final exam.

    The main thing is to be proactive - and if you get an early start like I did, you may get the jump on some of your classmates. Any advantage you can give yourself may be the difference between getting a job relatively soon and a prolonged search. Your school and others will be graduating at about the same time, and that will be a lot of people looking for nursing jobs at one time.
    Last edit by Orca on Dec 13, '12
  10. 1
    Outpatient psych is great--one of my jobs is currently in outpatient. But as everyone has said, you need to have solid psych experience under your belt before you can have a successful career in outpatient. First, employers won't hire you for outpatient without inpatient experience because you need to know what you're working with. Second, you will find that the acuity in outpatient can still run pretty high, especially with budget cuts and insurance companies forcing people through quick inpatient stays. Nowadays, inpatient is mostly to stabilize the patient; the long-term treatment is done outside of the hospital.

    There's no way I could have successfully started in outpatient--there would have been way too much to learn and outpatient wouldn't have been the best place to learn all of it in. I went in with two years' inpatient experience which was a big help...and I still learn something new every day.

    OP, try to get a job as a mental health aide/tech. It will give you experience in psych, it's a chance to network, and it will make you an internal applicant for jobs when you do graduate.
    priorities2 likes this.
  11. 0
    It's definitely possible. I've had my first job now for a few months and it is at an outpatient psych support program. I started out as registry but they really liked me so they bought out my contract even though their job posting said they wanted someone with years of experience.I suggest you find some outpatient programs around you and volunteer, or do something related to outpatient psych treatment, such as being an unlicensed mental health worker.
  12. 0
    Like other posts mentioned already, you might want some inpatient experience first as that will give you a good foundation. You'll learn stuff you won't learn in school which can apply to outpatient.


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