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nursing vs social work?

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Nursetobe25 Nursetobe25 (Member)

If I wanted to get into mental health what would you recommend, psychiatric nursing or mental health social work?

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

I personally know two people who started their careers as social workers before becoming nurses, so I'll recall the pros and cons as described by them.

If money is important to you, be advised that social work is traditionally low-paying for the educational level required. However, my friends state they were treated more professionally and had better working conditions when they worked as social workers.

Now that these people are nurses, their income earning potential has increased substantially. In one of these cases, my friend earned $30,000 yearly as a social worker and now earns $95,000 yearly as a nurse manager. However, these former social workers complain of bleak working conditions and disrespect in nursing.

Hence, your career pathway will depend on the aspects you wish to prioritize. Social work does not pay well, but offers professionalism, respect and a decent work/life balance. Nursing pays better, but many work environments are not professional, disrespect from patients and visitors happens, and work/life balance may or may not happen if you receive an oddball schedule.

Good luck to you!

I agree with the above poster. I would probally choose the SW route though.

firstinfamily, RN

Has 33 years experience.

Have you looked at any certification in Psych Nursing? This may be available through the AACN website. I know that those who went to college for social work were required to do various environments not just mental health and they had to do some pro bono work to graduate. Perhaps that was their thesis type project. Have you asked any of the Psych nurses what they would do if they had a choice or perhaps touch base with an outpatient Psych or Psychologist and see if you can provide some help for them---kind of shadow and see if you like it. I do see the psych issues in our country escalating and this field will most likely continue to be in demand. I truly believe there needs to be more accurate testing to provide pts with the proper drug treatments and I also find every Psychiatrist is most likely ready to shove a pill down someone than look at what the causes are of the mental disorder, counseling seems to help a lot and there are many on-line programs now for self-help so this field will continue to grow!! Good luck!!

I find SW, while important, tedious. I don't care to call a million places a day to find placement for someone and I don not want to work a 9-5

verene, MSN

Specializes in mental health / psychiatic nursing.

I think it really depends on what you want to do. I've looked into psych nursing, social work, and counseling. Psych nursing is usually working in hospital or out-patient settings, sometimes home health, and gets to deal with BOTH physical and mental health issues. You also have a nursing license which allows for possible transfer to other areas of the nursing profession if you burn out on psych. It's typically lower pay than some other areas of nursing, but still higher pay than social work. Entry into the profession requires an associates degree, with higher degrees becoming more and more popular for actually gaining employment and career advancement.

Social workers have a much wider range of areas that they can work in. They are also the only mental health professionals that are allowed into the ER to do psych evaluations. (At least in my state). That being said, from working with social workers and talking to some of them, there is a lot of time spent on the phone, completing paperwork, and battling logistical and bureaucratic problems. They are also the first phone call when a psych patient is having "issues" or logistical problems come up. They also are called on to potentially "fix" family issues in hospice that really don't need to be fixed. According to LMSW that works in that field. That being said that they do have the option to move around to a lot of different things, everything from evals, to adoption placement, to drug counseling. Entry level is masters degree and pay is typically low.

Counseling is difficult to find a job as a new grad, requires masters level entry, and pay is between nursing and social work levels. There is a lot of flexibility once established as a counselor in terms of what kind of clients one will see and what kind of hours one wants to work.

I think it comes down to where you really can see yourself working and what kind of workplace and want kind of patients & clients you see yourself working with. For myself, I'm really leaning towards psychiatric nurse practitioner as the "best of most worlds" because it is a position that would allow my interests in medicine and psychology to both be utilized and to have training in both pharmacology and physical health as well as counseling. The more I've learned about the profession the more it feels like it could be the "right fit" for me.

Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses and what you really desire in a job. Talk to members of each profession about what their work looks like, that should give you a starting point to figure out which path is the one for you.