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Psychiatric NP advice


Hello all, I am getting ready to graduate with my BSN in December and definitely want to pursue a masters and become a psych NP within the next year. So I am looking at jobs right now and there just so happens to be a couple openings on a psych unit in my area. Many people tell me I should go into med-surg or something similar to gain and work on some nursing skills. But if my end goal is to be a psych NP, would it just suffice to work right outta school on a psych unit while pursuing the masters? Any input or suggestions would be awesome!

WyndDrivenRain, BSN, RN

Specializes in Psych, Chem Dependency, Occ. Health. Has 8 years experience.

I'm not an NP yet but I have been a psych nurse for the past 5 years. I took care of patients with a variety of health conditions on top of their psych issues when I worked as a floor nurse so I believe you get a well-rounded experience as a psych nurse. If it is where your heart is, I say go for it, psych in any capacity is tough but worth it.

Sue, RN


Specializes in Psych, ER, OB, M/S, teaching, FNP. Has 10 years experience.

if you want to be a psych np work in psych. i know you will hear to get m/s experience first and i agree with that completely for the most part. but i have seen more damange done by psych nps that either are direct entry (have a maseter's in another field and then get psych np) or by nurses that were m/s, icu, er, ob, you name it and then become a psych np. you can't learn about true mental illness in a book and when you are getting your msn you spend so much time learing aobut meds and therapies and pathology you don't get time to learn about people.

i worked full time as a psych nurse right out of school, 3- 12 hours shifts. after 6 months i found a local hosp that i could do a couple of shifts per month and i learned so much about acute care. i am going to copy and paste a post i opresented to another very recently on this board that could not decide if s/he wanted to do psych np.

re: rethink my career path: pharmd vs pmh-np

as an fnp and currently post master student psych np (was a psych nurse for 5 years) i have an opinion. i realize you have made your decision and this is a bit old, but others may search this site and find this info. i see people choosing psych np for lots of reasons, they don't like to do paps, they don't want to deal with kids, they think psych np as less likely to pull call, they like to talk to people and give advice, you name it.

i see on the midwife boards they refer what they do to as "a calling" and i see mental health care as like that. if you just have an interest in therapy or don't want to do paps you will likely not make a very good psych np. can you do the job, prescribe meds and be financially successful? yes. but you still may not be a good psych np.

you stated in one post, "my decision to apply to pharmacy is the combination of seeking the feeling of accomplishment...."

that is not a typical feeling in mental health, or not in the sense that many people experience. one awesome psychiatrist i knew said this, "i can't fix these people, i am just here to walk the journey with them"

we all hear about "non-compliant" or "non-adherent", understand that is the standard in mental health. and depending on where you work, you may be just a pill pusher. you may see people for 15 minutes, long enough to make sure they are not having serious side effects or the voices are not back and that is it for 3 months, till you see them for another 15 minutes. if you are in a private practice that you can have more time it may be different but we all know how the health care system is and the days of the psychiatrist (or psych np) sitting for an hour with a patient doing therapy is long gone, at least in most areas.

i love what i do, but again it is a calling. it takes a special person to be a good psych provider and it takes more than an interest in psychology.

if anyone is truly interested in psych np, find a state hospital because that is the sickest of the sick people and work there for a year or two before you make you decision.

good luck

if psych is what you want then focus there. you may get into mental health and realize it is not your cup of tea, better at the bsn level than halfway through an msn program. if you can get some m/s that would be great too, but you need to learn more about mental health than what you get in an msn program. remeber, you need to learn about people not just pathology.

good luck

Thank you for the heart felt reply. I truly believe it is what I want to focus on and pursue. Mental illness fascinates me and if you can truly help just 1 out of 5 people, then you not only made their life more manageable but livable. From just doing my clinical rotations in psych, its obvious that some people just refuse to be helped (non compliant, don't want to put the effort into helping themselves, restrictive personalities, etc...). An occasional M/S shift also might not be a bad idea to gain some skills in acute care as well.