Is their wisdom in becoming a psych nurse if the nurse has his own psych history? - page 2

I'll try to be brief so as not to induce boredom: Since age 18 (I'm now 31), I have suffered from depression and anxiety. I received one non nursing baccalaureate degree in 2005, had a failed semester at law school (I... Read More

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    While psych nursing interests me, I chose NOT to do it because of my own experiences being a psych patient. Just too close to home. Plus, I love ICU

    However, there are a lot of people in the psych field with their own psych histories, be it psychiatrists, nurses, NP/PAs, techs, secretaries, OT, counselors, case managers, whatever. I think that having been on the other side of it CAN give you an edge, you know more closely what the patients are going through, and can give them more closely what they need in some of the worst times of their lives. *This is not to say that psych nurses without a psych history can't do this.* Either way, do what will make you happy. If you're worried about losing skills, get a per diem psych job, or keep your med/surg job per diem. I wish you luck on your journey
    macfar28 and VivaLasViejas like this.

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    Only you can answer if you would be happy in psych nursing. I will give you a few caveats though:

    1. Your having prior psych experience does not guarantee that you will be a successful psych nurse, no more than having given birth would guarantee that you'd be a successful L&D nurse, having beaten cancer would guarantee you a successful career in oncology nursing, etc.

    I know a lot of good psych staff that have MH issues. Yes, you may be able to relate a little better with your patient population d/t your experience, but your personal experience is only one small nugget of info in a very broad specialty. In addition, YOUR experience with a particular MH disorder doesn't mean a patient with the same d/o will have the same experience as you: they can be very very different.

    Nor is not having a psych history mean that you'd automatically fail in the job. I know a lot of good psych staff w/o MH issues. Often, they can see things more objectively than someone who has "been there, done that."

    2. A lot of people come into psych seeking to address unresolved issues in THEIR OWN mental health. Problem is that many of them can't separate their own mental health issues from that of their patients--they personalize the patient's MH problems and only see them through their own POV. Or they try to foist their own beliefs and attitudes on the patient. Or they spend more time seeking answers for their own issues and not focusing on their patients. End result: all parties lose out.

    I worked with an addictions nurse who had decades of sobriety--very knowledgable, very skilled, and having "been there, done that" could relate with the population. But the problem was that this nurse couldn't keep their own recovery separate from their patients', and every issue with the patient became all about this nurse in the nurse's mind. Said nurse failed to realize that the patients' recovery is all about THE PATIENT, not about THE NURSE.

    You honestly can't view working in psych nursing as a form of therapy/treatment for yourself. I'm not saying you are doing that...but be honest with yourself about what you're seeking in psych.

    3. Would working in psych jeapordize your own MH in any way? You verbalize fear that it could be a "constant negative reminder" of your own d/o...like elkpark said, is there a risk that something in psych would hit too close to home to you? Remember, your MH recovery must always come first and foremost. And your patients need to come before you.

    If you do decide that you want to try psych, you could always try out a per-diem or non-nursing job in the field first and see how you handle it. However, I would NOT disclose your own psych history as part of the job-hunting process. First, it's not going to be an "ace in the hole" that will get you a psych job. Second, a facility may wonder if they would be taking a chance with you, especially if they've had negative experiences with staff with MH issues in the past.

    Best of luck whatever you decide!
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    I am a mental health nurse, and this is what I have come to believe: A bit of history...after (currently) working five years in level one psych (highest acuity in this state/locked unit/independently standing, so no in-house medical resources, etc...) night shift charge nurse position; & four years booking assignments through a nursing agency, working in dual-diagnosis/straight substance dependency/corrections facilities primarily.

    You're own experiences will ABSOLUTELY serve to make you a better, more empathetic and more SYMPATHETIC nurse, certainly. You will have a unique "insiders" view to some aspect of everything you see in those patients who share your diagnosis, and thar can be wonderful for the patient.

    I don't believe it is necessarily ethical for you to share your history with acutely ill clients IN YOUR PLACE OF EMPLOY. Others will no doubt disagree, but I feel that it puts you at risk for legal action (sadly, in this day and age, psychiatric clients often are looking for an "edge", an "in" on the mental health employee caring for them. I could elaborate and certainly will if you like, but for the moment, I'll leave you with this...

    IF you choose psychiatric nursing as your specialty, and you want patients to know you "get them"/their histories/etc...do so by sharing that you have a choose family member with their diagnosis. Explain that you understand through living that person that, "X, Y, & Z can be very challenging aspects of living with bipolar disorder...". It achieves the same goal you are looking to achieve, but does not compromise you legally or ethically.

    Finally, if you really think about it, you will come to the conclusion that you CAN PROVIDE the very same ethically empathetic, sympathetic, and EXCELLENT care without that client ever knowing your history at all...and that, honestly, us what nursing is all about...THEM. Not you at all! Just some ideas to mull over.

    Very best of luck to you. Again if you are interested, I'd definitely like to post OR PM you with some other info about the choices you are considering! Let me know! :0)
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    Apologies for typos above/odd word insertion, punctuation oddities, etc...! This "Smart phone" isn't proving too "smart" using "Swype" typing program, and I unfortunately didn't have time to proofread tonight. Again, if a word seems off, insert best word imaginable via context. Ha!! :0) Best..."E.R."
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    Equestrian RN, thanks for the feedback! I haven't really decided where I want to go in nursing, and I don't necessarily feel like I have a duty to work on psych because of my experiences, not do I feel as though I am looking for personal help by checking out a career as a psych nurse. I simply wonder if I would derive some additional job satisfaction from helping those patients that I have shared certain experiences with; objectivity is paramount to me, but I thought personal insight may help the cause. I don't know...stuff for me to think about. In the here and now,I want to build my nurse chops for awhile in med-surg.

    By the way: I use Swype usually, but I've found SwiftKey 3 to be a great alternative on Android tablets and phones ;-)
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    Jtay,You've certainly got a good head on your shoulders, and you have gotten some great advice from other members here...it's really nice to see that you are considering all of this. Navigating the waters of the first few years of one's career can be tricky! I sure wish there had been a forum such as this 15 years ago! Boy would I have had an easier time of things with so many other nurses to bounce ideas off of!Anyhow, it sounds like you're taking your time and will decide what is best for YOU! I agree with spending as much time in med/surg as you can stand (not a huge fan but have tremendous respect for the med/surg veterans of the nursing world!!) I did about two years total..and it gave me the confidence and knowledge I needed to specialize in areas where often a med/surg background in other nurses of same specialty is lacking...I don't think I'd feel safe as a night shift charge in a stand-alone psych hospital without having that background to allow me to know post-haste that it's tinge ti call for EMS transport and NOW!! You'll have it all figured out soon, I can feel it! :0)BTW, thanks for the advice on the program (non-Swype!) because as you can no-doubt SEE, Swype is kicking my butt! (wink). You have a wonderful day!Equestrian RN :0)


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