Please help me become a child psyc. nurse!

Specialties Psychiatric


At the age of 15 I was admitted to an adolecent psychiatric hospital after a failed suicide attempt. I was diagnosed with anorexia, anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder. Since my release I have climbed up and down many mountians. I am now in college and all I want to do is be like the nurses who helped and cared for me, and to do the same for other kids.

Although I recieved excellent grades in high school, I did not take the classes necassary to get accepted into a university. At this time I am taking classes at a community college, working toward recieving my ADN. However, I am not sure if this is the path I am supposed to be taking. I do not know anyone whom I can talk with about my career goal, nor did my college advisors help me in any way.

I just really need to know how I should go about getting into the field.

.....should I just get my ADN and hope to find a child psyc. job once i have recieved that,should i get my bsn, is there any way to specialize in psyc, should i become a nurse practitioner..... so many questions.... any help, advice, anything, is appreciated.

thank you


You can work an an RN (ADN or BSN) on a child and/or adolescent inpatient psych unit at a hospital that has one. You should be doing a psych rotation in nursing school so you can see what it is like. I would let your instructors know that you are especially interested in child psych as opposed to adult. You may love it--you may hate it. I have worked in medical as well as psych and love psych. Funny enough though I hated my psych rotation in nursing school. LOL I was on a child unit. I ended up working in adult psych and would never do child psych--very different. I would not recommend thinking about a psych NP program until you work in the area as an RN for a while--to be sure you love it.

It can't hurt to get a year of med/surg under your belt to take with you to psych as it will be useful.

I find it useful in that people in for psych may have co-occuring medical problems that many hospitals expect those nurses on the psych floor to be able to manage. The other thing is that there are many medical problems that can actually cause symptoms that affect mood, behavior, etc. and if missed can be life threatening. Things that are not psychiatric but actually medical. Medical experience helps with these things a lot.

I would say you should do a year of pediatric medical at a hospital where they have both peds medical and psych and then put in for a transfer to the child psych. As far as an advanced degree--wait and see. You can continue on to psych NP or a pediatric psych NP or a counselor if that maybe ends up being of interest.

Good luck to you.

I am a RN on a children and adolescent unit and I did a 2 year fast track. This is my second career so the BSN wasn't that important to me since I NEVER want to be in management again :)

I love psych and wouldn't want to do anything else. I knew that in school but I heeded the advice of my instructors and did a couple of years in oncology before making the switch.

I now have several new grads working with me. Some look like they will be good fits, others not so much. It's not enough to like kids. This is HARD work. These are also not the kinds of kids you'd find on most playgrounds. They are manipulative, sneaky, dangerous, suicidal, defiant. They have stories that will break your heart. Some of them will be there for no reason other than their parents need a break (or parenting classes).

Your heart will break, it will swell. You'll be bruised and battered and when you think you can't take anymore you'll get hugged.

It will challenge you to find your backbone. I find that's one of the hardest things for new nurses to deal with. They want to help, but sometimes helping means saying no (over and over again), ignoring attention seeking behavior, not falling for staff splitting or manipulative behavior.

I could go on and on but the bottom line is focus on just getting through school. Get a part-time job as a mental health worker or sitter on a psych ward to get better acquainted with the disorders and treatments. That's what I did and it really helped support my goal.

And keep in mind, psych may end up not being for you just because you did experience so much when you were younger or it may be beneficial. Keep an open mind and do sanity checks on your intentions. It may trigger some not so nice memories for you. After I was diagnosed with cancer, I needed to quit working oncology. I thought it would help me be a better nurse but every patient's struggle became my own.

Good luck with school and welcome to the world of nursing.

I am fascinated by psych (future nursing student applying in December), but I do not think I would like working with kids. Case in point, a co-worker and good friend of my suffers from bi-polar disorder. Her son is in 7th grade this year. She is a wonderful person and loyal friend, but as a mom she has always let her son walk all over her. No discipline, and he always gets his way and talks his way out of consequences if he has broken rules. Anyway, he's highly intelligent and also very socially backward. Has a difficult time making friends and is hyper-conscious of anything that he perceives might make him seem different. The fact that his mom is gay is a huge stressor for him. Anyway, he got into a spat with his best friend and the friend called him a ******. He then said he wanted to kill himself and verbalized exactly how he would do it - by hanging. It was detailed enough that after an evaluation by an adult psychologist he was admitted to an inpatient mental health floor at the hospital and stayed there for about a week and a half. Since coming home close to a year ago he has threatened to commit suicide several times, but it has become apparent that he has realized that when he "plays this card" the adults all stand up and pay attention and remove him from whatever situation he's currently in that is causing him stress. See, this year he started middle school, and the work load is much greater than in grade school. He's used to being the smartest kid in the class and used to breezing through the work so now that he's actually being challenged it's causing him anxiety. So when he gets to class and realizes that what he thought he knew is wrong, or realizes that he missed an assignment and will receive a zero or whatever, he says XXXXX, whatever is necessary to get him out of class and into the guidance counselor's office where he spouts off enough to scare her into calling his mom who in turn leaves work to go pick him up and take him home for the rest of the day. Now if this child had had a parent who knew how to set limits from the word go he would be a lot better off than he is today. The fact that she is a lesbian living in the Bible Belt South would certainly still be a factor for him, but I do not believe that he would be acting out the way he is doing now. She has raised him to think that he should have whatever he wants whenever he wants it and this is one of the roots of the problem. How do you separate that from all of the other issues he has going on? This is why I do not want to do child psych. At least with adults you are working on THEIR problems. With kids you have to work on the kid, but the kid is complicated by the parenting which you have no input or control over.


Just a couple of things that stood out to me reading your post.......first off, I hear ya with the I do adults and not child psych! I hated my psych rotation in nursing school--it was on a child unit. Since that time I did a lot of things and landed, lets just say the last place I ever thought I'd be--in psych. First Adult psych and loved it. Then in the Psych ER where they take everything age like 4 or 5 and up thru geri psych patients. So as a staff nurse there I had to do evaluations on all ages. I got more used to the children and adolescents, and could deal with the here and there that I saw. So I get that part.

The second thing I noted was that the way you were describing this boy in your post--he sounds like a few things to be, not really bi-polar. I see some characteristics classic with Aspergers Syndrome. ("Anyway, he's highly intelligent and also very socially backward. Has a difficult time making friends and is hyper-conscious of anything that he perceives might make him seem different.") or depending on how old he was when things started and what his relationships were like with parents, etc. it could also be more along the lines of reactive attachment disorder. Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder would need to be ruled in or out as well. The problem is that he was seen by an adult psychiatrist. I would highly recommend he be evaluated by a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

The last thing that stands out to me is your mention of his mother being gay. If this was something he was aware of from a young age and there was a lack of a male involved there could be some issues. Though studies show that children raised by lesbian couples are actually very well adjusted as adults and do well, in some cases even more so then in heterosexual homes actually. This was a study in Europe somewhere I think. But still if she had the child with a man before she was able to confront her own sexuality and felt some resentment (maybe subconsciously) that this son was a part of her life when she was living as a straight woman, denying who she really was. There might have been some bonding issues revolving around that. Maybe not, just a thought as this is not uncommon. Because of the recent rash of boys who have committed suicide surrounding their inability to cope with the reality of being gay and the treatment they subsequently received because of it--I would be wary to be sure this isn't the case with this boy.

I have to say that I can speak to the subject knowingly as I am a lesbian myself. I have an almost 9 year old son and he does really well with it. My daughter who is almost 18, now her, not so much.

I would recommend they go to some sessions with a therapist who is LGBT family friendly as well as the son alone.


I wanted to answer the questions you posed. The mom, my friend, is now split from her partner to whom she had holy union. They decided to have their son via AI. He has never had a father figure. There is much love in the household and even though the two partners have split from each other their split was very amicable and both still share time with the child each week. He is currently under treatment by a psychiatrist and is on Abilify and is also undergoing couseling with a child psychologist. The psychiatrist is trying to rule out bipolar disorder. My friend has the milder version of bp, but is convinced that her brother has the more violent one though he refuses to seek any sort of professional help. Their mother also has mental health issues. She is finally starting to make him take responsibility for his choices and they are working on a behavior contract and have made and started using a "star chart" to use positive reinforcement for good behavior and choices. What he still struggles with is anxiety. He seems to have minimal coping skills when he becomes uncomfortable with a situation, particularly social ones and his pattern is to "hide" so to speak at home by withdrawing into video games. He has no close friends, partially because his mom, my friend, is very shy herself and has not made any friends in her neighborhood. The one friend he had there is no longer allowed to play with him and my friend does not know why but suspects that the other mom realized that her child was hanging out in a "gay household" and was not willing to accept that. The child has also been bullied some at school and is now very afraid when entering new social situations. I actually suggested that he be enrolled in a wrestling program, my thought being that it would teach him to be comfortable using his body in a contest that somewhat simulates a fight, but in a structured, organized, supervised way that fosters feelings of self-confidence and capability while still promoting sportsmanship and the following of the rules of the contest. It would also give him the opportunity to bond with a male figure i.e. the coach, and it is a sport that is not limited to a certain height or weight of person. Anyway, I know that one specific situation is not indicative of all child psychology situations, but I just can't see myself being interested in any area except adult psych.

Hi Hannah,

Best wishes with your career goals. If you become an NP consider,

the Crisis Intervention field as well. many teams have a separate

Child/Adolescent component. This experience will be helpful so

if you transition to an inpatient unit you will have a background

in various emergency issues which bring adolescents,and children

inpatient from a community perspective.

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