Hmmm, didn't realize this would be such a polarizing topic. I don't know why my years of critical care experience are considered starting from "zero". We treat psychiatric emergencies in the ER all the time, and when I am in the psych pod that is all I take care of. If the only reason to be a psych RN is to see if I can handle psych patients, well, I've seen plenty of head-banging, feces-eating, hole-shoving folks in the ER and it hasn't scared me away yet I'm also quite familiar with medical issues that can masquerade as or complicate psychiatric diagnoses. I've had plenty of suicide attempts, grief/palliative care conversations, addicts of all flavors, as well as TBI and dementia patients in the ICU. However, since I have never worked as a specifically psych RN, I don't know what I don't know and I can acknowledge that. What specific skills or knowledge might I gain from being a psych RN that I need to fulfill the APRN role that I am unable to gain from my current positions? As pro-student said, the roles of RN and APRN are pretty different.
I have a couple of main points of interest in the psych realm, which are my reasons for heading that direction in the first place. The patient populations I am most interested in are Veterans/PTSD/addiction/pain management, and I take care of these populations on a daily basis. I see the huge need for practitioners in these areas and I would love to fill a need. This would most likely put me in outpatient versus inpatient psych settings.
I'm still on the lookout for possible psych RN opportunities, but like I said none seem to be available that wouldn't put me in a very different financial situation, and no PRN jobs are around to be had (yet there are plenty of PMHNP openings!). Volunteering is a good idea, though, and I will look into that.
When I started out as a new grad in the ICU various people told me that it was a horrible idea and even that I would be dangerous to my patients. However, I think the opposite turned out to be true. I went into the position thinking critically from the get-go, and I am thankful I took the path I did because it made me a stronger nurse. I wonder if this is a similar situation to that? Either way, thanks to all who took time to give me their thoughts.