Very valid points elkpark, but alas they are DESPERATE for nurses everywhere.
What was it like for me starting right off in acute psych...way back when...lol. First let me say I started & still do work in a large institution, a VA hospital. You could perhaps equate this to a state hospital type setting as opposed to a community hospital psych unit. We had many chronic, severe, forensic, violent patients. I was fortunate to have had a very good nursing education in the college I attended. I was also fortunate that even though I was in a BSN program & had less clinical time in comparison to a diploma program, I did get to have many more clinical experiences than I ever expected to. I also had the privilege of working in social services in the community at a center city drop in shelter for the homeless while I was attending college. This experience was invaluable as I worked with the mentally ill & substance abusers as well as the police & various agencies. Let's just say I saw A LOT working there. Coming into my interview at the VA fresh out of college & still just a graduate nurse (nope didn't yet know if I passed the boards yet) the nurse recruiter after speaking to me at length hired me on the spot & in a sense threw me to the lions...lol. I have said this in previous posts but I think that the most valuable quality a psych nurse can possess is common sense & intiuition coupled with a good nursing skill foundation. For you to assume that a brief orientation is all that would be required b/c you don't have the medical acuity of other areas is just naive. In psych the acuity is of a different nature but no less acute...also just b/c they are mentally ill doesn't mean they don't also have medical issues/problems. You still need to know your stuff perhaps even moreso b/c they may not be capable of telling you their medical history if they are so psychotic, do you see where I am going? Then of course you have the situations that arise which are unique to psych such a NMS, lithium toxicity, TDS, occasionally brain tumors, head trauma. Yes we do work on psych
& yes even moreso now than ever as insurance will not pay for "frivilous" admissions. *sigh* Length of stay grows shorter & shorter while the paperwork gets longer & longer but that is another ***** all together. BTW speaking of paperwork, please realise the lengo & assessments are completely different than what you are used to doing on a medical floor & you will need time to become familiar with the terms & their meanings as well as their manifestations in actual patients. Do I think a month & a half is a long enough orientation for acute psych, nope I don't. Maybe an open unit where the patients have full privileges but well even there you will be expected to design & conduct groups as well as do the charting. There is also the fact that you have to become familiar with the various meds we give which are different that those on a medical unit...I dunno, for me it was exciting in the beginning but scary as well. In the first several months of my employ there I was assaulted for the first time. I was so gung ho & had the I can change the world attitude I was not really listening very well to the advise from the older more experienced nurses & NAs. It is always the last one you would expect to smack you that does it to....lol. I put myself in a situation where I was alone with the patient, even though I had been told never to do this, & he punched me in the face/head 4X before anyone could intervene. Needless to say I learned very quickly to pay attention to the pearls of wisdom which were being so graciously imparted upon me from the more experienced staff...lol. Ah yes humility is a wonderful thing. Psych can be scary, exciting, overwhelming, deeply saddening & joyful. It is I suppose like anything in life, it is what you make of it. I mentioned the getting some med/surg experience simply b/c it is something I wish I had done myself.
I don't know exactly if I answered your question, perhaps not the way you wished I might have. I simply typed what came to mind as I sat here & I certainly hope it helped. I wish you luck in whatever you may do but please, never think that we in psych sit around doing any less than any other speciality area. What we do is simply quite unique to us much in the way Maternity or Peds are realms onto themselves. Do you see?