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Looking into psychiatric nursing


Hey everyone,

I am thinking of applying to an accelerated BSN program. My goal is to eventually be a psychiatric NP, but before I think I'd like to work in psychiatry as an RN.

My dream is to work here on the East Coast, in an outpatient, clinic setting. I'd like to work with patients over a long period of time, providing psychotherapy and med management as a NP.

Is this a realistic goal? What is nursing like in the psychiatric field? Also, I am choosing psychiatric nursing in part because it seems to be a little more sedentary. As I have some back problems due to an injury, I'd like to pursue a career in nursing that allows for a good amount of time sitting on my *** rather than being on my feet all day.

Any advice, knowledge, etc. would be appreciated.

Also, I don't know how psychiatric NPs differ in their opportunity to practice based on state. Would it be possible to open my own practice as an NP? Or would I need the supervision of a doctor? I would like to practice in the DC area, so the areas I would be interested in practicing in would be DC, Maryland, and Virginia.


boogie_girl, BSN, RN

Specializes in Psych. Has 9 years experience.

Hi, getting your psych NP is a great goal, but one you would need a good amount of psychiatric nursing experience in before you get there. I worked inpatient psych for 5 years and know a few that went on to get their NP. Psychiatric nursing can be challenging depending on the acuity of the unit and unit culture. Some days you may have an *easy* shift when your patients are good and other shifts may be rough if you have a challenging patient. You use more of your communication skills in psych but you’re not always sedentary. You have to be alert and in tune with your patients’ needs. If a patient becomes an active danger to themselves or others, things may go awry so be ready to act accordingly.

NPs in any field typically work under a supervising doctor so I am not sure about opening your own practice. You could probably join a psychiatrist and open a practice together or join a psychiatrist office or work in an outpatient clinic as an NP. There’s definitely a need for Psych NPs. It’s very specialized so you need a good amount of years in working as a Psych RN (inpatient, outpatient, or a combination of both) before pursuing a career as a Psych NP.

Psych nursing is in general easier on the physical body, but stressful to the mind. There is a risk of getting hurt by a patient. Sometimes we have to run and have to duck or twist away from a patient. I’ve known some psych nurses who have had some pretty serious injuries. I get a good 10k steps in a shift—sometimes more depending what all is happening.

Mickey9700, RN

Specializes in Pediatrics, PICU, Pediatric Urgent Care. Has 13 years experience.

Is anyone a Pediatric Psych Nurse on here?

areason4stars, ASN, RN

Specializes in Pediatric Private Duty AND Child/Adolescent Psych. Has 12 years experience.

On 4/26/2020 at 10:13 PM, Mickey9700 said:

Is anyone a Pediatric Psych Nurse on here?

I work at a residential psych facility for children and teens.

Orca, ASN, RN

Specializes in Corrections, psychiatry, rehab, LTC. Has 26 years experience.

Minor point of order: outpatient mental health isn't going to give you much of an idea of what psychiatric nursing is like. By the time when they reach outpatient, the patients are generally stabilized and they are just in need of short term programmatic support.

I temporarily covered the outpatient program when out outpatient nurse resigned (I worked geropsych), and it was nothing like life on the unit.

Edited by Orca