I am a nursing student going into my final year of nursing school. I have made my mind up that I want to work with eating disorders. I have been wanting to do this for a long time and finally I have set my mind that this is final. The thing is, I don't know where to start. I know I have a while but I want to look at my options now so I have an idea of where to look at when the time comes. What would be a good area of nursing where there are eating disorder patients? I feel like general psych does not have this area. I also was looking at nurse residencies and I can't find anything to do with eating disorders either. If you have any experience or knowledge about how to find jobs in this area will you let me know? Also what type of experience should I have when I apply to a job like this? I do volunteer as an eating disorder recovery mentor already but besides that and having recovered from anorexia nervosa, thats my only experience. Any thoughts on either question? Thanks so much!
That may be a bit too rare and specialized for a new graduate. In fact, I think it would be rare and difficult for an experienced nurse to find a position like that.
I think med/surg and behavior health would both be a step towards your goal ...maybe adolescent behavioral health? Severe eating disorders can cause a multitude of physical medical issues, so it seems like a strong background in both would be most beneficial.
I agree. You're not likely to land a new-grad eating disorders job out of the gate. The thing is, there's a lot more to it than just the eating disorder. Almost all the time, these patient carry another psychiatric diagnosis with them (Axis I and/or II). In addition, eating disorders is one of the few psychiatric illnesses that have strong physiological effects. You need to understand all the comorbidities as well as the eating disorder. And you're going to be treating body as well as mind.
Start off in general psych first to gain experience. You're going to encounter a lot of ED patients in regular psych units, so it's not as though you'll never get to work with anyone without an eating disorder.
I've worked in eating disorders...be prepared for a lot of Axis II and substance abuse issues in these patients in addition to the ED.
Thank you so much for the response. So do you suggest I do general psych first and then try and find a job with EDs? Should I also do medsurg at all? Thanks for the insight!
Congratulations on your decision! That is very exciting! From my experience, if something has been on your heart for a while, it is worth pursuing. To answer your question, start with a search in your area for an eating disorder treatment center and see what you find! These types of places definitely do exist. There are clinics, outpatient groups, acute inpatient facilities, and residential programs all dedicated specifically to helping those with eating disorders.
There is an amazing clinic/residential program in my city for eating disorders where people of all ages can get treatment, and the staff includes nurses, psychiatrists, nutrition counselors, and therapists. I also know of two other inpatient psych units for eating disorders nearby, one is dedicated solely to people with eating disorders, the other is an adolescent psych unit where they treat a fair amount of eating disorders.
If this is your passion, then it is worth pursuing. Good luck!
My suggestion would be to look up eating disorder inpatient programs in your area and contact them directly? Ask if they're hiring, what sort of experience they look for in the nurses that they hire. Maybe even ask about doing one of your nursing school placements there if they're already not all set up.
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