A nurse with a psychology degree is often referred to as a “psych nurse” or mental health nurse. In the past, one need only become a registered nurse and then receive certification to work in the mental health field. By 2025, the rules and regulations surrounding this type of degree and job description will change. Nurses will have to have doctorates in psychology before they’re allowed to help those with mental illness. This stems from years of progressive change and the realization that people with mental illness need care professionals who understand mental disease better than just the labels its given.
- Choose an appropriate nursing school. While you can become a registered nurse through vocational schools and the degree is just as good, you will still need a BSN in nursing before moving on. That only comes from a four year qualified nursing school.
- Graduate with a BSN, and get on track early to get a Ph.D. in Nurse Practitioning. There are two paths here, and you’re going to want the one that doesn’t involve a clinical nursing focus. Psychology and research is the focus of the degree you want.
- The degree will require you to have at least four years under your belt of related field experience. State hospitals, while extremely stressful, will provide this experience adequately; otherwise seek this experience in a psychologist’s or psychiatrist’s office, whichever is closer to the type of work you want to do once you’re finished. You can choose to wait to enter your graduate studies program while obtaining this experience or you can go part-time or full-time while working in the field. If you can handle the strain, you can get through the program a little faster by doing both at once. Not recommended for everybody, but it can be done.
- If you’re already a psych nurse who’s been in the field for years, the new laws and regulations do not apply to you. You’re very lucky, and you can share what you know with the new nurses coming in and onto your unit. Mentoring and finding a mentor is a great way to get your feet wet and learn about the different applications your job can have.
- Take your nursing exams seriously. How you do will dictate where you go to find work, even after you have a doctorate in psychological nursing. Be prepared to know and recall a lot about the different levels of anti psychotics, mood stabilizers, and other pharmacology as it relates to this field.
- Be involved in your non-violent crisis intervention training. You will be better prepared to handle out of the ordinary situations with patients and avoid malpractice lawsuits if you know what to do and when to do it.
- Graduate, and be sure to pay your registration and licensing fees. Keep them up to date as long as you practice.
Psych nurses have a very rewarding and intense career. It’s a fascinating line of work, but burnout does happen. Take care of yourself when you care for others with mental illness.