My thoughts on Mental Health Nursing

Specialties Psychiatric


I posted this on my facebook wall a while back and thought I would share it here...

When I tell people I work in mental health, I almost always get a negative reaction. I get asked if there was nothing else left, am I scared to go to work and other questions that make no sense to me. I love what i do. I can't emphasize this enough. Everyday is different and challenging. I've never worked a "boring" shift. People ask if I'm afraid that I will lose my nursing skills. This baffles me. People with mental illness have physical illnesses too. I deal with diabetics, people with high blood pressure, clients with high cholesterol and many, many other illnesses. We handle cuts, bruises, stitches, casts, post-surgical care and all of the other things you see with a "normal" nursing job. We take vitals, assess clients and do ADLs. The difference is, I handle all of those duties, plus the duties of dealing with mental illness. My days are always interesting and never, ever boring. I have yet to work a shift that I look at the clock and think "is this day ever going to end?" Usually I look at the clock and think "it can't be that late already!" And no, I'm not afraid to go to work. The clients I work with are ill, not scary. I have far more pity for those that fear the mentally ill than I do for the mentally ill people themselves.

Specializes in Emergency Medicine and ICCU.


It's good you have made aware of nurses those are fearsome in entering Mental health Specialty. Good luck as long as you like the job you will not have any obstacles. continue with the same interest.

When I did my mental health clinical my mom and fiance asked me the same questions. "Omg, aren't you scared?"; I only had 1 day that I was a little bit frightened because a couple of the patients had outbursts and weren't cooperating. But then again, it was only my 3rd or 4th day and I know if I worked in the field I would learn how to communicate and work with the patients when those situations occurred.

You love your job and your making a difference in someone's life, isnt that what nursing is about? I give you a :up:.

I'm glad I came across this. I have an interview for a mental health position, and was wondering some of the questions. I am glad you clarified that I will be using skills and not just passing meds. :) I am really excited and nervous for my interview tomorrow!

From what I've read, there appear to be very good opportunities in advanced practice nursing in mental health.

Specializes in ICU.

As an on-and-off again psych patient, I thank you for this. I think all nurses going into the mental health field should have this attitude!!

Specializes in Mental Health, Hospice Care.

love this post!....we need many more just like you!

Thanks so much for posting your feelings. I have been working with an Assertive Community Treatment Team (ACTT) for a mental health organization for just over a year and I love it! After spending 16 months as an L&D RN, I wanted to do something different. Mental health is always a challenge, the days are NEVER boring or similar, and on top of everything you've listed in your post, we do case management as well! Talk about holistic care!! The thing is, our patients are people too...and so many people forget this. I love my patients and I love being able to make a difference in their lives and to see that difference be reflected in their mental status and goals, and achievements! Keep doing what you're doing, and educate others as you go! Best wishes :)

Thanks to everyone for the kind words. I truly love my job and hate the negative perception many people have of psych nursing.

Specializes in Med/Surg, Behavioral Health.

Oh, I have received what I refer to as "the look" many a time before from nurses, doctors, friends, family, etc. when I tell them I'm a psychiatric/addictions nurse. "The look" is a combination of shock, fear, and disgust - usually followed by such statements as, "Why would you ever want that job?", "Aren't you scared?", and "You're going to lose all your skills!"

I want this job because it is fascinating and challenging. I can honestly say I am never bored. While it is true that we get many "frequent flyers," we do have a few patients that overcome their illnesses and it is incredibly rewarding.

I would be lying if I said there were times I was not scared, we all get that patient every now and again that shakes us to the core but the old saying is true "safety comes in numbers." I don't feel afraid with adequate staffing and, if needed, security and supervisory presence.

As for my skills, what about the new ones we learn? I pride myself on my interpersonal communication skills and strong patient advocacy. As for inserting Foleys, IVs, etc. Those things are EASY to re-learn. :nurse:

ahhh, I love this!!! Especially the part where you said that "The clients I work with are ill, not scary". I whole heartedly agree with the last statement. :-)

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