What is Life Like for A Psychiatric Nurse?


Working in the psychiatric field can be emotionally demanding and challenging, as you may encounter patients who are struggling with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.

These patients may experience a wide range of symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, and suicidal thoughts.

If you are new to the field of psychiatric nursing, it can be difficult to watch patients struggle with these symptoms and not be able to immediately alleviate their pain.

Today, we are going to look at what life is like for new psychiatric nurses and how they can feel more comfortable with the responsibilities that they face.

What is a Psychiatric Nurse?

When you hear the phrase “Psychiatric Nurse,” what comes to mind?

We all have a general idea about the roles of traditional nurses, but when we think of psychiatric nurses, it starts to feel a little murky.

Hollywood has a tendency to portray nurses in this field as evil beings that love to torture helpless souls in prison-like institutions.

While such portrayals make for a good horror flick and are rarely the case today (though there is a level of truth in such depictions), most psychiatric nurses are people who care for the well-being of patients and face several challenges themselves that are innate to the field.

Psychiatric nurses need a great deal of compassion, patience, and the ability to hold on to their empathy.

Before someone can be a psychiatric nurse, they have to first complete a four-year nursing program. After that, a graduate or post-graduate program in psychiatric nursing is needed to develop the skills to provide care for those with mental illnesses.

These days, one can even join an online psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program, which can be really helpful as the coursework can be done completely online.

This leaves only the residency fieldwork, which is done in real-world settings. Such online courses are a useful option for working nurses who don’t have the time to do an in-person master’s degree when they want to switch to a psychiatric setting.

(Please remember, most MSN programs require you to have a BSN degree.)

What Do Psychiatric Nurses Do?

The role of a psychiatric nurse is chiefly to support, guide, and empower patients in their journey toward recovery.

They have a number of duties that vary depending on the setting in which they work, but common responsibilities include:

Assessing Patients Collaborating with Healthcare Professionals
Providing  Counseling Documenting and Reporting
Administering Medication Education and Support


The Ground Realities

While the above responsibilities seem very professional and sensible, the ground reality can be very stressful.

Due to the nature of the work, psychiatric nurses often deal with unpredictable and violent situations. A seemingly calm patient can suddenly lash out, for example, and safety concerns are a huge risk, especially for female nurses.

To add to that, the work can be demanding and often involves working on weekends, holidays, and night shifts. Limited resources often exacerbate these issues.

Stress from the high-stakes nature of dealing with the mentally ill also adds up fast, which results in new nurses leaving the field within one to two years, according to a study in the U.K.

The main point is that psychiatric nursing can be a very tough field initially, and it’s better for nurses thinking about making a career switch to be aware of its demanding nature.

However, despite these challenges, psychiatric nursing can also be extremely rewarding.

Seeing patients make progress with treatment and witnessing them improve their quality of life can be one of the most rewarding and cathartic moments for nurses.

Small accomplishments like a patient being able to leave their room for the first time in weeks or being able to have a conversation with a family member can make the most stressful days worth it.

At the end of it all, it comes down to the fact that in this field, there are good days, and then there are bad days. Finding ways to survive it all despite the high stress and emotionally demanding work is what keeps the wheels of psychiatric healthcare turning.


No one is going to tell you that psychiatric nursing is easy. It is, however, one of the most important aspects of mental health. If you are someone who loves challenges and believe that you have what it takes, psychiatric nursing can be a good fit for you.

On the other hand, if you find yourself getting stressed out easily by things even in your everyday life or feel like you lack the coping skills to deal with a demanding atmosphere, then you might want to look elsewhere.


How Can an Online MSN Program Help Registered Nurses Excel in Their Careers?

Previous article

Patients Describe “Chaotic” Scene in NYC Hospitals as Nurse Strike Continues

Next article

You may also like