Will I be stuck as a Psych Nurse forever?

  1. Some background on me: I am a new grad RN & started my first nursing job at the beginning of September at an inpatient mental health facility. I absolutely love my job as a Psych Nurse so far, and could see myself working here for a long time; however, I know people change as years go by and one day I might decide psych nursing is no longer for me. But will I be stuck in this job since I have no other experience?

    I thought of getting a PRN position at a hospital to gain some skills on a med-surg unit, but 1) I had applied for every position I've seen & have had no luck in even snagging one single interview and 2) I know PRN positions usually want/require experience since they don't usually offer much of an orientation & I don't have that experience. So I'm kind of at a loss here.

    I am not going to quit my current job that I love to find a med-surg job I may possibly hate just to get experience, but are there any other options out there for me to gain some skills, just in case psych nursing doesn't work out for me later on?

    Any advice is appreciated! Thanks in advance!

    (Not to sound rude, but please, no lectures on "new nurses should always start on med-surg" or whatever. Yes, my teachers did say that all during school. Yes, I did apply for a thousand M/S positions. The only job offer I got was psych, so I took it, and I'm thrilled that I like it as much as I do.)
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  2. 16 Comments

  3. by   Meriwhen
    Starting off in med-surg wouldn't in any way guarantee that you'd be able to go back to it. Many facilities require recent experience, as in the last 3 years. So if you did your year in med-surg, spent several years in psych and then tried to go back to med-surg, you'd find that your year of experience gotten way back when you started out as a nurse is far less helpful than you think.

    There's a lot of nurses who move from psych to other specialities. It's not impossible. It can be tough, especially given this job market and lack of nursing shortage.

    Try psych medical nursing. These are patients with both significant psych and medical issues: they're too medically unstable for the psych unit, but too psychiatrically unstable for the medical unit. You get the best of both worlds and get experience in both specialties.

    Or try LTAC (long-term acute care). Same sick patients as you'd find in your acute-care unit, but requiring longer stays. It's tough work but they're more welcoming of nurses with less experience.
  4. by   Orca
    I went straight from nursing school into mental health. While I enjoyed the job, I came to regret the decision later. I was working for a free standing mental health facility that was closed by the parent company. I couldn't buy an interview, and the job market was more wide open than it is now. I drew unemployment compensation for 90 days before I finally caught on with a rehab facility.
  5. by   nurse lala
    "are there any other options out there for me to gain some skills, just and treated me like a rookie. It wasn't easy, but I got through it. I s in case psych nursing doesn't work out for me later on?". Your options are determined by your flexibility. To what degree are you willing to give up what you have for the unknown? Would you can change your schedule or shift? change your location? There are many under served communities in our nation that need nurses and will train.

    I left MH after five years to spend a year on a M/S unit. They made me work the night shift. I am not nocturnal, but I toughed it out, and got my "need" for M/S out of my system. I went back to MH and have never looked back.
    Last edit by Meriwhen on Mar 1, '14 : Reason: Removed stray COLOR tags
  6. by   Davey Do
    When I read the title of your Thread, Peppermint_RN, "Will I be stuck as a Psych Nurse Forever?", the last verse of he Eagles' "Hotel California" came to mind...

    Last thing I remember, I was
    Running for the door
    I had to find the passage back
    To the place I was before
    "Relax, " said the night man,
    "We are programmed to receive.
    You can check-out any time you like,
    But you can never leave! "

    But Psych Nursing is not necessarily like Hotel California. My first Hospital job was as a Psych LPN in 1984. I have, since then, worked OR, CD, M/S, ER, Home Health, and Administration (x2), intermittently with Psych.

    It is good that you are looking toward the future, yet living in the present.

    I would advise you to be Zen about the whole thing. You know, let the Fates lead you where they may?

    The best to you, Peppermint_RN!
  7. by   Retired APRN
    If you're loving it now, just enjoy it. Should the situation ever change, you'll deal with it.
  8. by   sharpeimom
    I worked in mental health for over twenty years. I began with a B.S. degree. Down the road when I began to wish I could do more, I added a M.S.N. degree and it widened what I was able to accomplish. That was fine for about ten years until that same restless feeling came back again.

    My husband suggested adding a PhD and teaching course or two per semester in addition to my working 3 12s per week. His students love him and his teaching style which is great! I'm afraid my basic teaching style would be more along the lines of, "What do you mean you still don't understand? I've already explained it three times!"

    I applied to a NP program which would broaden my role while allowing me to remain where I was while I got it and stay there after. Unfortunately, I became disabled just after being accepted.

    There are many options opened to you so quit worrying! It will work out for you.
  9. by   alb402
    I was in the same mindset as you when I graduated nursing school a little over a year ago. I applied for a PRN position at an urgent care center and got it. While it's not med-surg and I'm not sure it would be enough experience to land me a job there, it has given me extra experience. I'm IV trained and have both my ACLS and PALS certs through the urgent care center. I say do whatever you can to add skills to your resume and if for some reason you'd want to leave, you have other skills under your belt to help land another job.
  10. by   Retired APRN
    Psychiatric nurses do not lose skills. We gain skills that nurses in other specialties don't have, in exactly the same way that nurses in any specialty develop field-specific skills that generalists don't have.

    There are several threads on this. One of my favorites is this one. I've linked to message #6 that GrnTea put up, but the whole thread is worth reading.
  11. by   BSNBritt
    Hello,

    I've had the exact same fear, "Will I be stuck as a psych nurse for the rest of my life?". I started my inpatient psych job right out of school and kept it for going on four years. I have also applied for countless Med/surg jobs with not even an interview. Finally scored an interview for home health care and before they even started, the woman interviewing me just stopped and said, "You don't have the skills we would need". They recommended that I try to get a skilled nursing job. I applied for long term care and amazingly got the job. I feel lucky though, because other psych nurses I work with have told me that they can't find other jobs. One told me the only way she got out of psych was to do a nursing internship somewhere else.
    Psych is great but at the end of the day there are a lot of nurses that would say, "Psych nursing isn't REAL nursing", and some of those may be the ones reading your job applications.

    Anyway, my advice would be to PRN at a skilled nursing or long term care. That way you can at least have something to boost your resume.
  12. by   EatYourVeggies
    Perhaps try home health care on the side or part-time/prn at an LTC facility so you can further practice certain nursing skills that you may not use much in mental health. I know in my area they hire new nurses part-time/prn in home-health and LTC that way you would not have to commit to a full-time schedule.
  13. by   Bee,RN
    I feel the same way being a women and children health nurse in a hospital setting. Although we experienced countless of things, it seems difficult for me to expand outside of that area of nursing. Every job I apply for outside of the women and children health area always send me that "Thank you for your interest, however we found someone more qualified in the area." After countless emails of that, I am feeling quite discourage. I often float to medical-surgical unit at the hospital I work when census is low on my area. I am so ready to expand outside of this area of nursing. Do anyone have any suggestions? Thanks
  14. by   rubyagnes
    @Peppermint_RN, ADN, RN How is it going? I'm interviewing for a psych nursing job as my first position out of school... any insight?

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