Beginning in the late 1800s there was a growing consensus that sanitarium patients had a right to proper nursing care. Although it began simply as a movement to provide those mental health inmates with the health care due every ward of the state, it has evolved over time into a very specific branch of nursing science that places mental health nurses in a pivotal role with respect to the overall care provided to patients with mental problems. Moreover, the psychology education required for a career in psychiatric-based health nursing is now an integral part of all nursing programs.
Psychiatric health nursing professionals are employed in a variety of patient care settings. They provide services to patients in standards hospital environments, home health care settings, and various government-run departments for mental health. You can also find them working in nursing colleges, private physicians’ offices, the United States military services, and both the state and federal prison systems.
Psychiatric nursing often takes place at the most basic of levels. Working with patients and their families, these professionals help to determine a patient’s mental status and treatment needs and develop treatment plans. The goals of this specialized form of nursing obviously extend beyond simple physical care, as the overriding health concern has at its core the improvement of each patient’s ability to cope with his or her mental illness, while preventing further deterioration of the condition. Because of the unique needs of the patients they serve, nurses find themselves offering treatment that is a blend of standard health care and mental health crisis management and counseling services.
The educational requirements of mental health nursing begin with a degree as a registered nurse, but they by no means end there. To become a psychiatric nurse practitioner or clinical nursing specialist in the field of mental health, nurses must also obtain a doctoral or master’s degree. These professionals can specialize even further by focusing on a range of targeted health services for various groups ranging from small children to older individuals.
Each of these age groups have very specific needs, and specialization in one category or another allows the nursing professional to bring a higher level of expertise to the treatment he or she offers. In general, an examination of the duties and responsibilities of the mental health nurse reveals a higher level of autonomy than in almost any other area of nursing. There are several states that even permit them to write prescriptions for medications.
The knowledge and skill sets brought to bear by psychiatric nursing practitioners in their care of patients is broad in scope and well suited for the physical and mental treatment they provide. With the ability to both diagnose and treat many of the most common mental health conditions, these nursing professionals are often on the front lines in the fight against not only those conditions, but the mental and emotional suffering caused by everything from domestic abuse to addictions as well.