Need Psych Nurse perspective

Specialties Psychiatric


I'm about to be in my last semester of nursing school and its getting to the time where I have to make up my mind on what I want to do.

I went into nursing school really wanting to become a psychiatric registered nurse with the intention of later becoming a psych NP. 
I had a lot of experiendes that really led me to want to help people with conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and drug addictions. (Though in general I like helping people with their mental health)

My psych clinical was in a long-term facility for patients mentally incompetent  to stand trial. I did not love the clinical if I'm being honest, the nurses hardly ever left the computer and had very little involvement with patients if any other than handing them their meds. I also felt very awkward in general talking to patients there and I often found myself having a difficult time figuring out what to say, the anxiety didn't help. I'm usually anxious in new environments but quickly adjust to them after a bit and become comfortable.

I really don't want to judge psych based solely on this clinical experience though. I did a presentation on acceptance and forgiveness for the patients there and felt like I really connected with them and they were so engaged with me! I really loved that feeling and felt passionate about it. 
Do you think my experience may have been affected because it was a long term facility with most patients already having been there for a long time? Or is psychiatric nursing maybe just not meant for me? 
Im at a crossroads because what if I go into psych and I don't like it? I've hears its so difficult to back to medical units after starting in psych.

Any insight and advice is greatly appreciated.

Specializes in Psych, Substance Abuse.

When I did my psych clinical, which was in a hospital, I didn't see any nurses actually interacting with patients. However, I knew psych was my passion. I've worked in a drug rehab facility, on psych floors, in a psych ER, and now as an in-home case manager. Maybe the dynamic is different in a forensic facility, but I've always had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my patients and create treatment plans tailored to thier individual needs. If you're ambivalent, perhaps you should try med/surge first. 

umbdude, MSN, APRN

1,228 Posts

Specializes in Psych/Mental Health.

I wouldn't judge it based on one experience at one facility. I went into nursing specifically to work in psych. My psych rotation during my BSN was not good, but I already worked in an inpatient psych unit at a research hospital, so I knew that's the specialty for me.

Other nurses not interacting with patients doesn't mean you have to do the same. Being awkward and not knowing what to say is not unusual for people new to the field. It's a skill that can be developed over time.

Try to think about whether being a psych NP is really what you want to do. If it is, get a little work experience as a psych RN then proceed.

MrChicagoRN, RN

2,593 Posts

Specializes in Leadership, Psych, HomeCare, Amb. Care.

What you saw in your clinical isn't typical of the experience of the inpatient experience. More frequently it will be people from the community experiencing a mental health crisis. Maybe their first, maybe an exacerbation of a chronic illness.

I do recommend a year of med surgery, or similar experience, as it will make you a more well rounded professional. But either way, don't let your first experience be your guide.

Specializes in Mental Health.

That's definitely not a typical psych environment. And honestly, as a PMHNP I feel like you're much more likely to be dealing with depressed housewives than criminally insane individuals. The docs get the fun ones. 🤣

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