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Becoming a psych NP... no psych experience

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I have three years med-surg experience and two years+ Medical ICU experience. Ive never worked psych as an RN but I was a mental health worker for one and a half years and I loved it. I've always been interested in psych but I wanted to become a well rounded nurse before I specialized in one field. What do you think my chances are of getting into a psych NP program with my background?? Please be honest

Bee_home care

Specializes in psychiatric home care. Has 10 years experience.

I would suggest doing inpatient psych nursing and then maybe outpatient psychiatric clinic type nursing or psych home care. Getting a sense of psych nursing is important and you may decide it is not for you then you haven't wasted a lot of time and money for a degree you don't want to use.

I am a psych home care nurse and love it but don't want the responsibilities of being a prescriber.

^ Ditto to the post above. You'll definitely want to get some experience before you invest the time and money. There are also significant differences between acute inpatient psych and outpatient.... just to keep in mind as you research your possibilities.

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

Oh you can probably get in if you are willing to pony up the money. :rolleyes: That doesn't mean you will be qualified to practice competently and write scripts for a population that you haven't ever spent time observing and working with, imo. Do yourself and your future patients a favor get some inpatient experience first. You could love it or hate it for some reason psych seems to run that way. Good luck.

She said she was a mental health worker beforehand - she didn't say that she's never spent time observing and working with the pts. Just not as an RN.

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

She said she was a mental health worker beforehand - she didn't say that she's never spent time observing and working with the pts. Just not as an RN.

Oh well than that would surely qualify someone to write prescriptions for psychiatric medication after only 4 semesters. :rolleyes:

I just finished precepting a clinical rotation for a psych NP student who has been an ICU nurse for a few years but has no psych experience at all of any kind (other than her original psych experience in nursing school). So, to answer the actual question the OP asked, it apparently is possible to get into a program with no experience.

(BTW, it's a legitimate, well-known and well-respected school she is at -- not one of the fly-by-night diploma-mill outfits.)

Oh well than that would surely qualify someone to write prescriptions for psychiatric medication after only 4 semesters.

You do realize that actual psychiatrists only have medical school and their internship before they are qualified to write any prescriptions? Or that theoretically, an RN with any kind of experience could get her PMHNP and write a script the next day? The only "qualifications" you need to write an Rx is the appropriate license.

I didn't say that she'd be perfect right out the box, and I didn't tell her not get experience first in the field. But the only way to get experience is to actually WORK.

Besides, I was addressing this:

That doesn't mean you will be qualified to practice competently and write scripts for a population that you haven't ever spent time observing and working with, imo

which was wrong. She HAS spent time observing and working with mental health pts, she said that in her first post.

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

I just finished precepting a clinical rotation for a psych NP student who has been an ICU nurse for a few years but has no psych experience at all of any kind (other than her original psych experience in nursing school). So, to answer the actual question the OP asked, it apparently is possible to get into a program with no experience.

(BTW, it's a legitimate, well-known and well-respected school she is at -- not one of the fly-by-night diploma-mill outfits.)

The school I know that admits CNLs, which is another topic along the same lines, with no nursing experience into their psychiatric NP program is also a well known respected school. I don't get it but no one asked my opinion. :D

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

But the only way to get experience is to actually WORK.

Yup which was why I suggested someone without psychiatric staff nurse experience is not imo a good fit for an advanced practice role without getting some work experience. I get that this is going to be your fast track route into nursing also but please consider the feedback from experienced nurses who have worked with these new grads and the possibility that just because the school takes your money doesn't mean it is the ideal situation for you or your patients.

I don't get it but no one asked my opinion. :D

(I don't get it, either, but, like you, nobody asked my opinion. :))

Whispera, MSN, RN

Specializes in psych, addictions, hospice, education.

Lissa, you don't see the whole picture. Psychiatrists have medical school, residency, internship to prescribe and specialization in order to be baby-shrinks. An RN who prescribes must have a Master's degree, advanced pharmacology, clinical experience during the Master's degree, certification in area of specialization, a collaborating doctor almost everywhere, approval by the facility that hires her if she works for someone, major complications if she works for herself that can be insurmountable, approval by insurance companies so the patients will have their bills paid, and probably lots of other things I've forgotten. It's not a matter of just finishing school and being competent to do the job. I'm not saying it's impossible to be competent at that point, but I think it's rare to both be completely competent and/or FEEL competent. It takes awhile.

Being a tech is totally different than being a nurse. Being an advanced practice nurse is totally different than being a nurse. Experience matters. It's much more important than schooling, in my opinion.

The answer to your question is that your experience is one component of your application. The other components are your undergrad grades, GRE scores (possibly), letters of recommendation, and your interview. Assuming you had good grades, scores, letters and interviewed well, you shouldn't have a problem!

Obviously, what I'm saying here is that there are a number of factors that go into admissions. You will be asked why you are interested in becoming a psych NP. Much of the work involves meds. Psych meds require close monitoring of labs, side effects and effectiveness. Your ICU experience will serve you well in that you understand the concept of titrating and monitoring lab values.

Don't worry. If you feel drawn to the field, go for it. You don't need years of experience as a psych RN to be a PMHNP - the roles are hugely different.

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

Don't worry. If you feel drawn to the field, go for it. You don't need years of experience as a psych RN to be a PMHNP - the roles are hugely different.

Although an ICU nurse is definitely more suited for these programs than the new CNLs with no nursing experience I disagree that the roles are hugely different in the regard that both RNs and NPs need to assess the situation and make decisions on what medication to either prescribe or administer in crisis so having that experience to draw from is crucial, imo.

Jules, are you an NP? NP student?

Most psych RNs work in an inpatient setting - relatively controlled. Typically the focus is stabilization. The RN doesn't diagnose. The RN calls the doc because they need something. The RN might suggest a particular med but more often than not simply presents the doc with the situation (often emergency meds!). The RN is not doing titration of meds over weeks or months to find the right combo that works for a pt. Having the responsibilityy to make the decision regarding diagnosis and what to prescribe, not to mention trying to find the right dosing is hugely different than observing and administering.

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

Jules, are you an NP? NP student?

Most psych RNs work in an inpatient setting - relatively controlled. Typically the focus is stabilization. The RN doesn't diagnose. The RN calls the doc because they need something. The RN might suggest a particular med but more often than not simply presents the doc with the situation (often emergency meds!). The RN is not doing titration of meds over weeks or months to find the right combo that works for a pt. Having the responsibilityy to make the decision regarding diagnosis and what to prescribe, not to mention trying to find the right dosing is hugely different than observing and administering.

Haven't taken my boards yet. How about you? Your above paragraph sounds like a large list of reasons someone with no psychiatric experience might not be well suited to graduate as a NP. :confused: While I agree that the roles are different before I had even taken a single NP class I had a good read on what the intake would be diagosed with, the medication and dose the physician would order, common side effects and what to do about them and was able to handle the responsibility of deciding on which prn to administer from a fairly large list based on the patient's presentation during a crisis. We can agree to disagree but I value my floor experience and daily interactions with physicians and residents far more than any course I have taken.

NPvampire, MSN, RN, APRN

Specializes in Psych, Geriatrics. Has 11 years experience.

Can you shadow an RN or NP in a psych facility before quitting your hospital job? I would say working in psych is a passion because the pay is awful and the patients can be very violent at times. I love it, but that's just me, and I have to work extra to make ends meet. You won't pull the same salary in psych as you do working ICU--unless you are an NP probably. 'Least not in the southeast US.

kate4rn

Specializes in ER, Telemetry, cardiac, trauma. Has 4 years experience.

I think every kind of nursing gives you psych experience, with patients and family. I hope the OP is happy and kicking butt as an Advanced Practice Nurse.