refresher course needed for psych nursing?

Specialties Psychiatric


Aloha, I just recently had my RN license reinstated after 8 years of not working as a nurse. I'm in the process of figuring out what area I'd like to work in of my interests is psych nursing since psychology was my original degree path in college (almost earned a BS in psych then switched to nursing).

After 8 years of being out, I would feel better about taking a RN refresher course, but does the course material cover psych nursing in any detail or is it more focused on preparing a nurse to re-enter med/surg ?

thank you

Whispera, MSN, RN

3,458 Posts

Specializes in psych, addictions, hospice, education.

The RN refresher course doesn't cover psych much at all. How about auditing a psych nursing course at a nearby school?

I just got a job in adolescent psych after 10 years out of nursing. I worked with these kids during that time though - just didn't "chart" or "pass meds"........

rn/writer, RN

9 Articles; 4,168 Posts

I took an RN refresher course a while back because I'd taken a break and before that, I'd worked . . . psych. :D The course I took dealt mainly with med/surg concerns, hospital equipment, and the latest and greatest meds and treatments. Almost nothing related specifically to psych.

That said, we were allowed to try to find a clinical site of our choosing. The school offered some, but they didn't have enough for everyone at the outset (we had four weeks of classroom before the clinical component was added), and some of my classmates had potential employers who were willing to help them out by using their facility as a clinical setting.

I suggest you narrow down your choices for a refresher program and see what they say. If you have a psych unit in mind, approach them and see if it's possible to do a clinical in their setting. Be sure to let them know that you understand they aren't promising you a job, just providing a useful opportunity.

If you can't work something out in conjunction with a refresher course, you can certainly do a lot on your own, especially with internet access.

Google things like "psych meds," "mental illness," "psych treatment," and any other aspects of mental health care you can think of. Make med flash cards with actions, side effects, etc. so you can become familiar with the current pharmacology. Do the same for different diagnoses--signs and symptoms, usual meds, preferred treatment modalities, etc.

Google treatment programs and hospital sites. You should find all kinds of links and terminology to help you make a glossary dealing with the world of mental health. Do some research on the interaction between mental health and substance abuse. It's estimated that upwards of 70% of bipolar patients have attempted to self medicate with alcohol and/or drugs. Visit support groups' websites ( is a good place to start) for the view from "the other side of the counter."

Finally, look up first person or family accounts of dealing with mental illness. You can Google this directly or go to or another book site or even your own public library. There are some excellent books about what it feels like to be/live with someone living with mental illness.

Doing any or all of these should give you a good start in psych. I wish you the best.

If you can, speak with people who already work in this field. Maybe you could even shadow a program near you.


356 Posts

thank you for the helpful advice! I have started a refresher course and will hopefully arrange a clinical in a psych area..but if not, those were great suggestions you gave for refreshing on my own. I also started reading up on CEUS for psych nurses.

Take care

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