new grad in psych hoping to transition into PH

  1. Hey all

    Long title I know, but as the title says I am a new grad RN that has just started working at a mental health hospital. I actually enjoy working here but I'm hoping to use the experience to transition into public health which is what I wanted to pursue since nursing school.

    My question is how can I use my experience in mental health to transition into public health? Has anyone ever gone this route before? Or maybe you can point me in the right direction. I'm assuming there's a field of public health that deals directly with mental health, just not sure of how to look for this.

    I'd appreciate any help. Thanks!
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    About ericninetwo

    Joined: Oct '13; Posts: 76; Likes: 48


  3. by   SiwanRN
    I think experience in mental health / psych nursing is transferrable to any area of nursing you may want to move into, public health included. In any interviews you have, you can highlight your experience with therapeutic communication, patient teaching, and thinking-out-of-the-box resource finding. You'll find in many public health positions that your communication skills are your most valuable skill as you rely more on that for direct patient/client interactions or working with the community than things like lab values or physical assessment findings.

    I started work in public health straight out of nursing school, so I can't speak to the transition you'll have to do. There are nursing positions in public health that deal with mental health. I've seen VA nurse case managers for mental health clinics, a nurse in my health department focuses on pregnancy-related depression and anxiety disorders and provides her expertise to home visit nurses who deal with pregnant and parenting women and also provides trainings to local health care providers and community organizations to help them recognize and refer pregnant/post partum women who are experiencing those problems. There are some nurses where I am that do mental health first aid trainings (Mental Health First Aid) in the community. If substance abuse is your bag, there is a world of things opening up with syringe exchange programs that may involve nurses. Jobs like these vary in availability depending on your location though, so you should snoop around your local public health department and state health department websites to look at what programs and services are offered that might be related to mental health and consider the possibility of a move if there isn't anything locally available. Another thing to look at would be disaster service organizations that might use psych nurses for psychological first aid in disaster response.

    I would encourage you to consider joining your state's public health association to get connected to public health in your area. You can network to learn who the major public health players are in your state,, get job listing notifications, and maybe even find a mentor to help you transition to public health. Find your state or local chapter here: State & Regional Public Health Associations

    Good luck and keep us posted!
  4. by   Everline
    Following what has already been said, if you want to work in public health, apply when you are ready! Your psych skill will suit you well in the PH environment. When you interview, list some of your skills and the ways in which they can transfer. Public health nurses work in many different areas. Some of us go out in the community. Others stay in clinics and the community comes to us. And there are so many different areas from TB to Health Start nurses! One thing that seems to be a common factor is dealing with the psychological or emotional needs of your clients or patients. I know that, as a public health nurse, I often encounter people who have issues with depression and other mental health conditions. Though I am not treating them for those things, I must be able to build trust and a good working relationship. So I encourage you! Also any interviewing and educating skill you have will be valuable. When you work in public health, you work with people of all ages and may often deal with sensitive topics. Good luck to you and I'd love to hear an update when you finally find yourself in a public health environment!
  5. by   nina12345
    Hello! I am also a new graduate nurse who is working in psych. I am also contemplating moving towards public health! I have similar questions, and from what I've learned, Public Health would be a Master's Degree you would get that isn't necessarily specific to your nursing degree. Public Health is different from traditional nursing because you aren't treating an individual, you are treating a population, although this depends on the the job you get!
  6. by   SiwanRN
    Hi nina12345,

    Good luck on your transition from psych to public health! I would say that most of what you said is accurate, except you don't need a master's degree to get started in public health generally speaking. I would say it is true that you likely need a master's degree, whether in public health or nursing, to move into a management/supervisory role in public health, but that is also highly dependant on where you live. Most public health nursing positions I have seen require a BSN as the requirement for entry level positions, although some places may also accept an associate's degree and an RN license - particularly if they are rural areas or small communities. You don't have to wait to go to graduate school to work in public health if you don't want to!