7 things to learn from Psychiatric Nursing

Whether you’re a psych nurse or not, there are nuggets of wisdom to be learned from psych nursing that can translate to awareness and satisfaction out of your work. Here are 7!

1. It’s Okay to Personally Dislike Some Patients

It’s inevitable. With so many patients passing through your care, and so many behavioral issues, there’s bound to be one that you can’t help but feel a crippling dislike for. All you need to do is exercise self-control and make sure your feelings don’t translate into action – a little help from your co-workers may be helpful.

2. Don’t Argue With Psych Patients

You’d think this is obvious, but too many people engage in arguing and even bickering with psychiatric patients. This is a surefire way to escalate them – an exercise in futility that can be dangerous. Think of psych patients as 1 year olds: they have no sense how they’re affecting others or themselves, and all their words and behaviors are just gut reactions to what’s around them. Everyone knows there’s no sense arguing with a 1 year old! Redirecting works better.

3. Developing Patience Will Make You Less Miserable

In psych nursing, there are potentially hundreds of things to annoy you every time you go to work. If you allow yourself to be affected, you’ll hate your job. Practicing being patient, shrugging off inconveniences or annoying behaviors, and never taking things personal are all essential if you want to enjoy your job.

4. Mental Health is a Growing Problem

Most mental health treatment facilities are growing in patients and beds. Why? Is awareness of mental health increasing? Is financial support for mental health more readily available? Are people just mentally unhealthier? Who knows – but it’s a great time to get into being a psych nurse!

5. It’s Hard to Practice What You Teach.

At work, you’re a saint. Nothing bothers you. You’re always professional toward patients and staff. You help patients behave better and be more aware of their actions and feelings. Then, wham! You walk in the front door to your house and it’s crankytown. Everything annoys you, your family gets on your nerves, and your fuel tank for nonsense is empty. It happens.

6. Psychopharmacology is an Odd Science

Odd science is putting it nicely. Some would call it a crapshoot. Almost all psych medications vary in effectiveness between individuals – psychiatrists prescribe, tweak, prescribe, and tweak, and if it’s still not right, try another medication of the same class. A lot of psych medications have a blurry mechanism of action – we’re not sure why it works, it just does. So we use it.

7. Psych Nurses Don’t Get to Talk To Patients As Much As They Should

Especially at inpatient facilities, nurses seldom sit down to have a real conversation. Most of the time it’s a brisk assessment to make sure there are no pressing safety issues. The rest of the time is filled with meds, admissions, discharges, and everything else. Like any other type of nursing, staffing is usually the biggest limiting factor on patient outcomes and quality care.

I hope that these personal observations are found to be accurate by my fellow psych nurses – and that non-psych nurses can appreciate and relate these to their own lives and jobs. Let us know your opinions in the comments below and on Facebook!

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