Might be a possible psych nursing student

Specialties Psychiatric


Is this a career that helps others??

I like to think so and have seen it work through with family members.

I noticed in Psychiatric Nursing

there is therapeutic communication, something that I really like

and some personal care and the goal from what I understand is to help the individual recover from mental illness.

I have also seen that psychiatric nurses get to talk to the families of the patients and let them know what has been going on.

My question though is it often that one gets to see the client get better, or does one just move on from patient to patient without really getting to know them?

I ask all this because I am quite young, I am a 23 year old male and have noticed I love helping others, and I am sensitive and empathic. I just started volunteering at a mental health organization and find it rewarding. Also helped street kids with an array of issues.

My education is in Criminology and I spent 3-4 years getting that Associates Degree, my goal was to become a cop and move out.

But I am now having doubts about being a cop, I am quite fascinated by the field of mental health. But this means probably another 3 years of school for me.

At what age did you become a psychiatric nurse?? would it be too late to pursue psych nursing at a later age?? The program in Vancouver, BC Douglas College looks intense!

Meriwhen, ASN, BSN, MSN, RN

4 Articles; 7,907 Posts

Specializes in Psych ICU, addictions.
Is this a career that helps others??


We don't help by patching up visible injuries and illnesses. We patch up illnesses that often can't be readily seen. Our illnesses don't often manifest themselves physiologically, or if they do it's mistaken for a physical condition that they think isn't as serious.

We save lives. Granted, it's not always because of our actions during a code blue, though sometimes we do have patients that have brought themselves that far. Nor are we hovering in front of several machines monitoring a patient's vitals, drips, cardiac rhythms, and such on a minute-by-minute basis. We help the patient control suicidal and destructive thoughts and help them find motivation for living.

What we do infrequently has instant gratification. We don't push the med and watch the blood pressure fall or the pain go away. We don't have patients making tremendous strides in improvement overnight. We have to keep trying and trying and trying...sometimes it feels like pounding one's head against a brick wall. It can take many interactions with the patient before we finally see a glimmer that something has clicked and is working.

Many psych patients reach recovery, and it is fantastic to watch--and help--them in their journey. But in the mentally ill, there is a high rate of recividism/relapse. Want "frequent flyers?" We have them in spades.

Also, not everyone makes a complete recovery. Some of the more severely mentally ill don't make a recovery period. I have a patient that's been with us 100+ days and counting; they're too sick to really reenter society independently, but we've gotten them to the best point we could for long-term care. But we are there day in and day out trying to help them...because imagine how much worse off they'd be if we weren't there?

We work with a population that society frequently stigmatizes. Mental health services have expanded in the last few decades, but they are almost always the first ones that will be reduced or cut. Or patients are afraid to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental illness.

And unfortunately, those of us working in psych are frequently stigmatized too. Unlike other areas of nursing, they don't make movies or television shows about what we in psych do...and if they do, it's almost always found under the "Horror/Thriller" section and is appallingly inaccurate.

At what age did you become a psychiatric nurse?? would it be too late to pursue psych nursing at a later age?? The program in Vancouver, BC Douglas College looks intense!

I was older than you are :) But here in the US, we don't have specific programs for psych nursing. Instead, you become a RN or LVN (you call these RPNs, I think) and then you work in the specialty.

Hope this helps!


106 Posts

Holy yeah that does help, this career also sounds like very tough work,

but a different perspective on how to help others and I like it!!

You are right Merriwhen here in BC the psych nurses are called Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPN)

one has to take specific programs and take a type of licensing test.

Yes the stigmatization is something I see in the society where I live, both in the career aspect and if one is a patient.

Thanks for the reply! :)


67 Posts

Specializes in Mental Health.


In my opinion being a psychiatric nurse is what you make of it yourself. You get the opportunity to explore a person's life with them and it is up to you how you support them. I have seen nurses go to the end of the earth is help someone and I have seen others do enough to get by because it is their job.

As for seeing people get better - it often depends on the area you work in and how closely you work with the person. As a psychiatric nursing student I have moved around to different services and have seen people in different stages of their difficulties. I will qualify in a few months and will be 24, one of the youngest in my class. I say go for it :)

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