How to get psych experience??

  1. Hi all

    I am an RN working on my BN. My lack of recent acute care experience is a major road block to getting hired anywhere (do we really have a nursing shortage??). I have only applied for jobs in areas that aren't med-surg intensive.

    I have a Cert in Autism Spectrum Disorders(ASDs), and would love to work with kids in some capacity, so I applied to a couple of DD/MR facilities. I got bites (they like the ASD cert) but as soon as they find out I have no recent med-surg, that's the end....

    Well, ASD falls under the DSM, so maybe I could work with kids in mental health. But all of the job postings seem to want "experienced" mental health/psych nurses. How/where do I get that psych experience?? Where can I volunteer? I am in California.

    Thanks for listening...
  2. Visit dianabay profile page

    About dianabay

    Joined: Jun '08; Posts: 82; Likes: 61


  3. by   Thunderwolf
    Tis the dilemma for many who start out. "Experience needed" can become a roadblock for some, depending upon where they live and in what area of nursing they desire to work.

    However, you have to live and provide for yourself first. First priority. So, finding any job in nursing is the first step, getting your foot in the door, getting any nursing experience. Once working, keeping in mind that you will most probably need to have a person or two as a future job reference for later. This may entail your needing to consider non-psych employment surg being one area to consider. It is not all that bad. Really.

    Some folks, depending upon where they live and the employment opportunities available, are lucky enough to just jump right into psych first, right out of school. Some are not so lucky. It all depends upon your locale.

    I guess what I am trying to say is...keep your dream alive for yourself in wishing to work with the MR/DD one you may need to consider working in a different area of nursing first for awhile. Keep your eyes and ears open. Continue networking in your area. Contact and stay connected to your local MR/DD and mental health boards as well...for many have a listing of agencies (maybe even employment opportunities) that they oversee.

    I wish you the best.
  4. by   Jules A
    I would definitely check around because in my area most psych facilities will hire LPNs and new grads without experience. Good luck.
  5. by   medsurgrnco
    What type of recent nursing experience do you have? Are you able to move? I know psych nurses that were hired with no psych or acute-care experience who previously worked in LTC.
  6. by   dianabay
    Thanks Thunderwolf, Jules A, and medsurgrnco: I really appreciate your advice and taking time to post.

    Since 1991, I have only worked on a a casual basis as a volunteer at clinics for the uninsured doing diabetes/nutrition, prenatal teaching.

    Most psych jobs do not even mention med-surg experience; one reason I thought psych would be a good fit for me.

    The other (and more important) reason is my passion for children's mental health and DD, especially Autism. My son (5) was diagnosed with a neuro-developmental disorder and I stayed home to care for him, then went back to school a year ago for my BN.

    My desire to help children with psychiatric disorders is so strong that I am willing to volunteer my service in order to get some experience. I just don't know where to start....

    We are in the Santa Clarita valley in CA. Yes, I am willing to move.

    With a good psych orientation, I know I could contribute so much. Does anyone know of an employer who provides such a thing, a phychiatric Internship/externship, or a "refresher" in psychiatry?

    I'm considering doing a mental health certificate, then finish the last 7 courses for my BN (which is an option). Do you think that may be a good idea?

    Thanks so much again for listening, and for your advice.
    Last edit by dianabay on Nov 23, '08
  7. by   lsvalliant
    We have alot in common. Im a new grad RN and I started off recently in Med Surg to get some general nursing experience and I hate it (check out my "new grad delima" post in this forum). Anyways, I really wanted to work in psych right after graduation. My calling is also with children or adolescents. I also have a son (age 4) just recently diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome. In fact he starts special ed. preschool with OT and ST tomorrow. Anyways, prior to his diagnosis I was drawn to psych from my clinical experience at UCLA. It was awesome! I live in the SFV so we're not too far apart. You might have to bite the bullet like me and get some M/S experience first. Or you can try registry if you have your MAB cert.
  8. by   dianabay
    Hi isvalliant:

    Thanks so much for posting. I did see your other post! And, yes, we do have a lot in common!

    You said your son was diagnosed with AS, and he is getting speech therapy?

    I am curious because according to the DSM-IV definition of AS there must be no significant speech delay. That said, there are a lot of clinicians who disagree with delineating AS on the basis of speech delay alone. Or is his speech problem unrelated?

    Isvalliant, I actually graduated in 1985, and just went back for my BN, although I am like a new grad when looking for jobs because it's been so long since my acute care days.

    I was so miserable on med-surg that I lost 20 lbs (that I didn't have to spare). Seriously, if I had to go back to med-surg, I would hand in my license....Seriously!! ha ha

    I may do the mental health certificate program, as it has a clinical component, then finish my BN.

    BTW- Is your son in a social skills group? My son's Social Skills groups have been invaluable. If you ever need anything- information, support, a sounding board, feel free to email anytime.

  9. by   sarmedic70
    I would put in a few months in med/surg, and the reason I say that is psych patients will have med/surg issues at some point. It is prudent that a RN be strong in med/surg, realistically, in order to be able to deal with these non-psych issues. Believe it or not, psych patients will and do have other medical issues outside of psychiatric. And especially to be able to discern between what is truly a medical issue vs somatoform.

    There was an adult psych patient who was very somatic who died as a result of the RNs not being in tune and strong in med/surg issues to be able to know the difference between someone being somatic and truly having a real illness outside of it being psych. I know there's been discussion in this section about having med/surg experience vs it is not really necessary. Having been on both ends, I truly think it very beneficial to have that med/surg experience. It can truly make a difference in the care your patient may need overall. I used to be one who balked about this need to have med-surg experience before all else, but I have since changed my mind to some degree and see the benefits of it.

    I, too, hated med/surg and knew from the "get go" it was not my cup of tea by a long shot. In fact, my background is actually emergency medicine, and with all of my experience, I was getting that song and dance of "you have to have at least 6 mos, preferably 1 year, of med/surg experience before working in the ER":angryfire.....forget the fact I could do more things as a medic than an ER RN for the most part. But that is another story for possibly another time. I still disagree with that thinking from the aspect of having been a medic for several years..................but on the other hand, even though I hated working med/surg, I don't regret it either and feel I have become a stronger and better RN for it overall. I did learn some additional skills and enjoyed learning new things overall.............I also knew I had to "play the game." :bowingpur

    I work in a state psychiatric hospital, so our patients are very, very, very sick by the time they come to us. We see it all, to include the non-psych medical issues. One has to be on his/her game in determining if one is sick from a virus or on the throes of NMS? Is one having abnormal muscle movements as a result of Tardive Dyskensia, Tics or something completely different? The list is endless. I work mostly with pediatrics at the moment, so it is a given they are going to have non-psychiatric illnesses as a result of being kids. We also have a geriatric unit...............need I go there with regards to the various non-psychaitric issues...........

    Our state hospital has hired RN's with no med/surg experience, but the bulk of us have come from other hospitals with experience. We do have a lot of nursing students with us who are working as either psych techs while they are going to school or have gotten their LPN through their nursing schooling working towards their RN while working as our med nurses. A lot of them, the LPN's especially, have come on board as RNs with us eventually. We experienced RNs in other fields have been able to mentor them in what they have lacked in med/surg experience while they have worked with us as LPNs.

    If you can get on with a state hospital, if they are set up like us, that is the way to go. You cannot get any more experience in psych than at the state level for sure. You get it all. Since I am currently working peds, I have also gotten the autism spectrum as well.................and all else possible. It's extremely challenging, difficult, but very rewarding. I was determined to be working in forensics at our hospital, but all I can say is that God had different plans for me, and I don't regret it one iota. Eventually, I will go forensics and/or corrections (considering that the bulk of the prisoner population has some form of psychiatric illness or another).

    There is no right nor wrong answer as to the discussion of having med/surg experience first before going into psych nursing; however, I am sharing with you all just what my experience has been and my personal thoughts on it. It cannot hurt at all, and truth be told, it will truly make you a better psych RN overall, IMHO. Again, I hated med/surg as well, but I don't regret having to go that route and having to "play the game." I felt I have become a much stronger, skilled and better RN for it for the sake of my patients overall. I am much more in tune to more as a result. I hope that makes sense.

    Going the med/surg route doesn't mean you will be doomed to have to do it forever. It is just a temporary, doable stepping stone to the next level in your career as an RN. Since you know it won't be a forever thing, you can do it! In fact, you may find that it is not so bad afterall, and find something in yourself you never knew you had about you. I know I did.............and again, I feel I have become a stronger person and RN for it.

    Well that is my worth for whatever it is truly worth..........
    Best of luck to you!