Don't do it!


Unless you have passion for psychiatric nursing and you're completely certain this is what you want to do for the entirety of your nursing career until retirement. I am not discouraging anyone from trying it out, but if you want to get a taste of psych it would just be much better to go per diem.

I am sharing my experiencing not to spread negativity, but as a somewhat cautionary tale. I got into nursing because I started my professional life with the army reserves with nothing else I can do as an 18 year old almost done with college general ed with no idea what to major in. Out of many enlisted jobs, it made sense to pick LVN as my military specialty since the initial entry training gives me a professional license with an average starting pay higher than most officers and NCOs on active duty.

Fast time forward for almost 2 years, I was done with my initial entry training which netted me EMT and LVN under my belt. I got back to civilian life with the exception of "a weekend a month and 2 weeks in the summer" with my reserves unit. Superficially, it made sense for me to work as an LVN in the civilian sector and bridge to RN so I can have a higher income level and commission in the military if I wanted to. As far as employment, I had difficulty getting my first nursing job like many new grads. Eventually, a nurse manager at a mental health facility with detox and crisis center took pity on me and hired me. About a year and half into that, I was accepted into a bridge program and got my RN.

After getting my RN, I was back to the new grad status against, and was forced to stay as an LVN at the place I was working at the time. Despite them being super desperate for more RNs, they passed me over because I don't have a BSN even though it was natural for me to get an ASN since most LVNRN bridge programs are taught at the ASN level. Just like that, I became a new grad desperately struggling with getting a job again. At the same time, the military also began to downsizing, and told me I had to sign for another enlistment while staying enlisted as LVN just to have a chance of becoming an officer so I made my exit from military life once and for all. So life was already becoming double trouble for me at this point. But this time, I had to move away from my family and earn much lower pay for my first RN job. Eventually I acquired enough experience and was able to move home with a job.

Several months after working as a temp, I was offered a permanent position starting at 100k take home a year. But at that point, that's when I realized that psych nursing is not for me. No matter how many patients I work with and how many shifts I complete safely and keeping everyone alive, I never felt truly accomplished and I always felt uncomfortable giving emergency IMs or restraining people even though I only choose to do them out of absolute necessity for safety. I also had a fair share of difficult nurses I worked with, ranging from coworkers who can barely function due to their Axis II problems to coworkers who treat all patients like 5 year olds that they will force IMs and restrain/seclude patients for their convenience just on the verge of purely abuse. It seems that majority of nurses, techs, and even some doctors I work with are only there for their mortgages and auto loans, and someday I will join them as well if I continue to stagnate professionally and choose to accumulate debt in one way or another. Even "happier" nurses have seen decades of "action" in ERs and ICUs, even if they don't like acute care they have proven that they can do it and don't have to struggle with the insecurity I now have because I spent my entire young adulthood trying to get fancy degrees and credentials without getting rich/diverse experiences to support them. I have not done an IV since LVN school, and whenever we had to transfer patients to the ER, most nurses including myself have no idea what to do and have to get our butts saved by EMTs and paramedics "taking over".

I attempted to apply for nursing jobs in other specialties, only to be told that I don't have the experience that I can't get in the first place. Even new grad programs do not want me, perhaps out of the prejudice that psych nurses can't work anywhere else and are more difficult to train than actual new grads fresh out of nursing school. The nursing profession expects me to stay in psych and "rot", with or without becoming a nurse manager and/or psych NP which capture zero interest from me.

After all that chaos, I thought I could transition my knowledge and limited experience to EMS/firefighting, since my military training did get me an EMT education and I am a relatively physically active person even though my nursing jobs have been sedentary asides from assisting with restraints and I continued to exercise despite having been out of the military for a few years at that point. Without thinking much, I signed up and got accepted into a college fire academy, and quit my job because I had quite a bit of savings in my bank. I kept my finances afloat by getting another per diem nursing job, but fire academy became my new nemesis. Being a natural runner with a lean body type, I struggled with heavy lifting especially with my upper body. I was the weakest male cadet physically when it came to unique strength that firefighters must possess, and even towards the end of the academy I was below average and passed with the worst time on the physical fitness test besides the 2 female cadets. Aside from physical fitness, I also paid dearly for having relative no experiencing working with hand tools, power tools, ropes that the I only portion of the academy I have done well was the academics. On top of all that, the chief instructor is a veteran and had high expectations for me then certainly grew extremely disappointed.

After graduating fire academy, I thought my worst days were over but I was deadly mistaken. Like a good portion of graduates, I searched for internships and eventually found one. Surprisingly, I was the only intern even though there were 6 slots. One of my classmates initially wanted to do his internship there but backed out last minute after one of our former instructors told him to find another internship. I decided to see to it for myself but i was already too late. A week or two into the internship, I realized half of the people I met did not take me seriously because I am a nurse, and about half of that chose to haze me in one way or another because I was the only intern which became the ideal prey for people working/volunteering in a department without many calls. I ended up cleaning from morning to bedtime for free on days when there just werent any calls, and eventually my weaknesses caught up to me and the internship became fire academy part II. At the same time, I did not have enough time to work my per diem nursing job so my finances began to collapse. With that many factors, I dropped out of the internship and "returned" to nursing shamefully as a failed firefighter.

I returned to working full time as a psych nurse, but still tried hard to get opportunities to re-specialize. Without surprise, I only got a few interviews out of dozens of applications I made and failed each one of them. I even got turned down by a new grad job that pays 17 per hour when the average RN pay in my area is 55 on average. Feeling like crap being a failed soldier, firefighter, and "real nurse", I pretty much shut myself down from my social life, that I only ate, sleep, worked, and played video games for at least 2 months.

After everything I have been through, I still refuse that I am only good for psych nursing despite what the nurse managers that refused to hire me and the nursing profession as a whole think. Since I have next to no options left in nursing, I looked into going back to my roots as an EMT and improving it by becoming a paramedic. By becoming a paramedic, I can at least get retrained in hands on skills and have more certainty in what jobs I can get after I graduate. After all, I developed semi grudging respect for them for saving my patients taking them to the ER. I took the initiative to get ACLS and PALS certified, and even taught myself to be a paramedic and challenged the Florida paramedic board successfully. Tomorrow I start paramedic school so I can get the national registry and be licensed as a paramedic at where I work. I have nothing against psych nursing, but I do hold strong resentment against not given a chance to work in any other specialties in nursing or to start over in another profession. Since I still work as a psych nurse per diem (this time with better hours and pay so I won't struggle financially), I always stay 100% professional while I'm on the job and focus on helping my patients. I have excellent relationships with my coworkers now, and I grew more mature to respect the good in them and take it easy with everyone as long as it's not a safety issue. I do plan to work as a paramedic full time after I get my national registry and continue to do nursing per diem. With that said, I have also made peace with a strong possibility that I may not be the right material to be a firefighter, since that profession isnt for everyone just like nursing and I am getting close to turning 30. However, if I end up having a great run as a paramedic while refining my fire skills/knowledge on the side, I won't be shy to raise back up like a phoenix someday and become the best fireman I can be.

Back to topic, I hope what happened to me won't befall onto anyone. If anyone reading this wants go into psych nursing, please be absolute sure and back out if things aren't working out before it's too late.

Neats, BSN

682 Posts

Specializes in Case Manager/Administrator. Has 14 years experience.

So first question is what do you want to be when you grow up?

It sounds like you are a well rounded Registered Nurse who really has not found your niche. When you feel you have reached road blocks/speed bumps you reinvent yourself, you continually improve yourself, you clearly are not a stagnant person.

I am not sure where you live or the population but here is a suggestion. With all your experiences and qualification have you ever considered a critical access hospital to get what you call "rich experience". You have not been stagnated what you have is rich experience that will service you well in future endeavors.

At critical access hospitals you often get med/surg and emergency experience. I know several hospitals across the country need good nurses and you can google and google Top 2