psych nursing for the mentally ill nurse


Hi... so I have a passion inside me at this point to enter the mental health nursing field. I am gointo be a family NP, but before that would like to do child/adolescent or high-functioning adult psych nursing. In nursing school I HATED psych nursing rotation, but t's because I had demons in my closet I had never faced. I am facing them at this point... working through a new dx of BP II disorder and just had my very first inpatient psych admission which was frightening and necessary at the same time. I really think this is something I need to do but am wried that I'm only interested because I am now in acceptance of my mental illness. Anyone have input here? Is this a bad thing? SHould I steer clear of psych nursing b/c of my hx? Thanks for your input.


14,633 Posts

While I would never suggest that a past psych dx should eliminate psych nursing as a possibility permanently, in the situation you describe it may well be a very good idea to let some time pass and become more familiar and stable with your dx and treatment yourself. It's extremely important, in psych nursing, to have your own "baggage" well in hand.

If you have not been interested in psych nursing before, you may be right that your new, sudden interest is related to your own experiences. It's not uncommon for people to feel drawn to the various mental health professions/occupations because they are looking to get their own needs met -- and that usually turns out badly for someone, whether it is the individual or the clients with whom the individual is working.

If you already have plans to become a FNP, why not continue on that path for the time being instead of suddenly going off in a different direction that won't help you achieve your long-term career goal (FNP)? You can always go into psych nursing later on if you find that the desire persists over time ...

Best wishes!

rn/writer, RN

17 Articles; 4,168 Posts

I concur.

There are many psych nurses (and docs) who have some psych hx in their background, but the ones who seem to do the best are those who are a good way out (several years at least) from any active phase of their condition. The same is true for people who come from an AODA background. You should have a considerable length of time being clean and sober or stable and well-managed before attempting to take on what can be a demanding specialty area.

This isn't all that different for other folks that have chronic health issues. A nurse with cardiac hx should get whatever tx he needs, go through cardiac rehab, and achieve medical stability before returning to work.

You may need long-term treatment and meds, and that's fine. It's just that you need to have reached the maintenance stage before you can work in this area without jeopardizing your own mental health, confusing your issues with your work, or shortchanging your patients on subjects that are still somewhat uncomfortable for you. All of this will come with time.

When and if you do work in psych, it is essential that you have someone (preferably more than one person) in whom you can confide and get help with de-stressing. Then if you do run into patients or issues that aggravate you or stir up unfinished business, you can immediately seek counsel and help in dealing with the challenges.

I wish you the best with your treatment and your plans.

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