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Shadowing and/or Volunteering for Psychiatric Nursing

by MGMargolis MGMargolis (New) New

Hi Everyone!

I'm planning on applying to Direct Entry MSN programs in the Fall that offer a specialization in Psychiatric nursing.

My question is about what kind of shadowing/volunteer experience would best prepare me for the field and would help most in the application process.

Currently I have no professional experience working in the mental health field or in the broader field of medicine/nursing and right now I'm worried that would be the biggest issue with my application, and for that reason I want to do everything that I can between now and next Fall to address those concerns.

Because an outsider can't gain first hand knowledge of the field by shadowing a psychiatric nurse or volunteering in a setting where psychiatric nursing is being carried out, I was wondering what the next best alternative would be.

Thanks in advance!


Specializes in Cardiac (adult), CC, Peds, MH/Substance. Has 8 years experience.

Some/many facilities, depending on where you live, allow volunteers on locked psychiatric units. I've been on units that allow volunteers recently.

verene, MSN

Specializes in mental health / psychiatic nursing.

Look into getting your CNA. You can work as a mental health tech in psychiatric facilities (some may not even require the CNA) or work in a LTC for mental health patients. I strongly recommend getting some volunteer or work experience in the mental health setting if you don't have much exposure to this population, preferably before you even apply for this direct-entry psych program. Mental health tends to be an area people either love or hate, and it would really suck to find out it isn't something you care for after starting school.

While most psychiatric facilities will not allow anyone to job shadow due to HIPPA, you may also want to inquire if any nurses would be willing to sit down and do an informational interview with you. Another way to start meeting pysch nurses and learning more is to see if there are any APNA chapters in your area; you can likely attend a meeting and ask questions.