Pursuing Specialty But...With A Personal Twist

Nurses General Nursing

Updated:   Published

I'm a new-ish grad in Med/Surg. My hospital has the option to eventually cross train and float to other units. I'm interested in mental health and my long term goal is to be a PMHNP, so naturally I'd like to work on the mental health unit.

Here's my conundrum: 7 or 8 years ago, when I was extremely depressed and unwell, I ended up on said MHU. It was my one and only hospitalization and my mental health has drastically improved & been stable, since. Now this was awhile ago, but I've seen a couple nurses I remember from that time around the hospital and I assume they still work there.

Would it be weird or inappropriate for me to work on that unit, now? It won't trigger me, but I don't know if it would make staff feel uncomfortable to have someone working there who was once a patient.

My hospital is a small, community one, and we are in a rural area, so my options are limited. The only other psych options are quite a commute and two of which are standalone psych hospitals with much higher level acuity/risk to physical safety than I am OK with (I worked at one right off the bat out of school and saw a lot of people get seriously injured. I left quickly because of a mix of that and because I wanted a more solid medical foundation before pursuing a PMHNP specialty).

If this was a situation where I had been a medical patient and ended up working on that medical unit I know no one would care - but there is still unfortunately a stigma attached to mental health care, and the power dynamics between staff and patients are different in that psych than in medical.

Thoughts and feedback welcome! 

Your coworkers will probably not care and at the same time gossip. Thats just inevitable. 8 years ago is a very long time and who cares? You have been stable since, changed for the better.  People change, ie; people get married and divorce within a year or so...  Just be strong and if the situation or the environment is too triggering for you then leave. You do not have to prove anything to any one. Just take care of yourself.

 If anything, having experience being a pt and a clinician now will help you do your job better. You might have developed a level of empathy and other clinical skills that will help you with your assessments and bedside skills in that new  specialty or anywhere as a nurse in general. Besides, having experience in medsurg means you have seen a plethora of medical conditions and have seen so many psych conditions. It should be a little adjustment and you should be OK. 

Specializes in Mental Health.

If former patients weren't allowed to work in mental health facilities, they'd have very little staff.

Specializes in Psych, Addictions, SOL (Student of Life).

There are lot's of nurses and even Physicians who have or have had mental health issues. I have suffered from debilitating and relapsing depression since I was about 13 years old and I am 60 and yes I work in a psych facility. The only caution I would give is to be aware of appropriate boundaries at all times and recognize any transference issues that may come up. The most prevalent one I have seen is when health care workers assume that because they got better anyone can. 



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