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Mental Health Nurse Need-to-Knows

Mental Health Nurse Need-to-Knows

Nurses are one of the nation’s largest employable professions, with 59% of all healthcare professionals being nurses.

The nursing field is constantly evolving and the demand for nurses is continually growing. There are a variety of different types of nurses you can be, with career opportunities stretching far beyond the ER and medical office. Nurses work in all types of settings that all play a critical role in the greater healthcare field.

If you are an aspiring nurse, you may be wondering what your options are within the nursing field. With so many nursing specialties, it can be hard to decide what type of nurses would be a good fit for you. Here we take a deeper look into mental health nurses and what they do.

What is a mental health nurse?

A mental health nurse, also known as a psychiatric nurse, are specially trained nurses who care for the psychological and physical well-being of people with mental health conditions or behavioral problems.

Mental health nurses have advanced knowledge of the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of psychiatric disorders that helps them provide specialized care. They typically work alongside other health professionals in a medical team with the aim of providing optimal clinical outcomes for the patient.

The work of a mental health nurse is mainly to assess the mental health needs of individual patients, families, groups, and communities. Their work can also include creating care plans and assessing the efficacy of treatment of patients. Treatment can include prescription medication, psychotherapy, or other relevant therapeutics.

Where would you work as a mental health nurse?

Mental health nurses work in a variety of healthcare settings alongside other healthcare professionals. Common work settings include hospitals, private practices, prisons, community centers, rehabilitation centers, correctional facilities, schools, colleges, or corporations.

Working as a mental health nurse in a hospital means you might be based in either a psychiatric unit, a specialist ward, or an outpatients’ department. Daily activities are likely to be focused on building relationships with clients, their families, and carers.


Mental health nurses are registered nurses who work in the mental healthcare sector. To become a registered nurse, a person must obtain one of three degrees and pass the registered nurse (RN) licensing examination in their state after graduating.

The three-degree options for becoming an RN are:

  • 2-year associate degree program in nursing
  • 3-year diploma program in nursing
  • 4-year university or college bachelor’s degree program in nursing

A mental health nurse must also complete additional training in pharmacology, as well as the social and behavioral sciences. After a person passes the RN licensing exam, they must also complete the following to become certified as a psychiatric nurse:

  • 2 Years of practice as a full-time RN
  • A minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical experience in psychiatric mental health nursing within 3 years of passing the exam
  • 30 Hours of continuing education in psychiatric mental health nursing within 3 years of passing the exam

Nursing is full of prospects

Nursing is an incredibly important field, full of opportunity, with consistently high demand.

There is no wrong choice when it comes to choosing a nursing career or a type of nursing degree. Whichever direction you go, it will be respected and rewarding, and without a doubt, you will make a difference.           

If you are interested in developing meaningful relationships with patients in order to provide them with an all-encompassing level of care that helps their emotional and mental needs, then view our recent mental health nurse jobs here.