Psych RN Role?

Nurses General Nursing


I'll be graduating in May and still unsure what area of nursing I want to pursue. I feel there are sooooo many options out there its endless. One of my favorite rotations in school, was psych and wanted to hear from the psych nurses out there. When I did my clinicals, many of the pt's said they loved having students because the nurses didn't talk to them like we did. We went into the patient rooms and sat for several minutes and actually talked to them about their conditions and why they were there. And from the impression I got, this was not true of the staff RNs. It seemed the RN's basically passed meds and monitored the safety of the residents. So, I guess I'm confused what the role is of a psych RN? Are you supposed to talk to your patients or is the the MD's job? I know as a med/surg nurse you would do the procedures and patient care, but what patient care would be needed for psych patients? Just curious about this. Also, wanted to know if you enjoy psych nursing and if this type of nursing is as needed as in other areas like med/surg, ICU, etc?? Thanks for the input!


2,099 Posts

Specializes in Corrections, Psych, Med-Surg.

The specific role and duties of a psych RN depend on the facility and its policies.

Often you are supervising aides and techs who do much of the hands-on work.

You are also responsible for noticing, identifying, and dealing with (directly, referring, whatever) medical problems, SE of medications, injuries, etc. This is why it is a good idea to have at least one year of med-surg experience before going into specialties like this. So you have a clue about what to look for (and what just grabs your attention when you aren't directly looking) and what to do about it.


17 Posts

There are some of my coworkers who think I listened to the patients "things"too much and that after in a few years I won't do it anymore. Well I don't think so, I love psych and I'm probably going to specialized in that.

Nurse Ratched, RN

2,149 Posts

Specializes in Geriatrics/Oncology/Psych/College Health.

#1 role is to ensure my patients' safety. Almost as important is to make sure they take their meds. Assuming they are in anything remotely resembling a mental position to engage in therapeutic communication, then we talk. It's sometimes counterproductive if the patient is paranoid, or otherwise just too psychotic. It's true that some days you have to just wait for the meds to kick in.

sanakruz, ADN

735 Posts

There is a forum for psych nurses here on this BB. Check it out.

I have seen plenty of jaded nurses that "dont want to hear it


On the other hand I have seen inexperienced nurses have the marrow sucked from their bones by patients who would be much better served by firm limits and good personal boundries.

One of my primary duties on in-pt acute was to facilitate groups.

Still my fav at the out-pt clinic


81 Posts

I am a psych nurse and love it. I try to give each one of my patients some individual time in a 'safe' setting each shift. You have to set boundries and stick to them. You also get to do group therapy depending on where you work. I enjoy that as well. I am a former ICU nurse who finally got the chance to work at her first love PSYCH and I haven't looked back since.

sphinx, BSN, RN

326 Posts

Well, I'm not a psych nurse, but on the other side of the coin, I can tell you, I have been admitted into a psych ward on 3 occasions (severe suicidal depression). Some nurses talked to me more than others. Some breezed in and out with meds. As someone mentioned above, there was a bit of time before my meds kicked in where staff was a bit more "stern" with me, but I needed it, and actually appreciated it (I was not involuntarily committed, I came in because I recognized I needed help, for the sake of my children if nothing else).

On the other hand, having been on a surgical ward this past year after a hysterectomy, I found that there too, some nurses spend a bit more time with me, some breezed in and out to deliver meds, with nary a peek at my incision or asking about my pain or telling me I needed to ambulate more, etc. I think it is the individual nurse, not the specialty. But that's my personal opinion.

Myself, I'm a talker. Makes homehealth a challenge, as I end up in patient homes forever and a day. I got a lot of depressed pateints, as my specialty is OB (think postpartum depression). I can smell depression, it seems. While psych is not my specialty, I can do a lot of med teaching, etc as I certainly have the knowledge, but I always get the pysch CNS in there, as she is trained to be therapeutic, while I am more empathetic. Ya know?

Good luck in whatever you do.

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