For anyone interested in a career that combines compassion with science, the field of mental health nursing is worth exploring. Mental health nurses aim to improve the holistic health and wellness of individuals who are coping with different types of mental illnesses and disorders. Being a part of this noble profession has its own set of rewards, not only do you get to make a difference in another person’s recovery journey, but it can also offer great job satisfaction and personal fulfillment. Successfully pursuing a mental health nurse career requires dedication, passion, patience, and knowledge, so here’s some vital information to help you take your first steps on your professional path.
1. Get the Necessary Education
You need to have obtained either an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to establish a career in mental health nursing. If you already hold a diploma, earning your ADN or BSN through online programs is possible. There are also those who opt to earn an MSN (Masters of Science in Nursing) degree to make themselves even more competitive in the job market.
Accelerated nursing programs are also available for those with a Bachelor’s degree in another field. You can take an ABSN online program and become a nurse in as little as one year. The syllabus may cover units like psychology, pharmacology, and other related fields.
2. Obtain Licensure
Before commencing practice, all registered nurses must obtain a license, which is mandatory in every state. Passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is necessary to acquire the license and work as a mental health nurse. This exam is designed to assess your knowledge of nursing practices, ethical issues, and patient care. Maintaining your license may require the completion of additional coursework or continuing education credits. You can contact your area’s state board of nursing to determine the exact requirements.
3. Consider Mental Health Specialty Certifications
Mental health nursing is quickly becoming one of the most popular nursing specialties. You can demonstrate your expertise and knowledge to potential employers by obtaining a certification in the field. You may have to obtain additional education or complete a set number of hours of fieldwork depending on the certification you want. The ANCC website provides more information about the requirements for each specialty.
4. Gain Experience
You can only know if you are a good fit for this career by gaining hands-on experience. You can begin by volunteering at local hospitals or clinics; however, look for opportunities to work directly with patients suffering from mental illnesses. An internship with a mental health facility is another excellent way to gain experience. This will allow you to observe and learn from experienced nurses and psychiatrists in a practical setting.
5. Stay Up to Date
Things can change in an instant in the field of nursing. You can follow the latest trends by attending conferences, reading relevant articles, and joining professional organizations. Stay up to date with the licensing requirements in your area since you need to renew your license after some time.
Mental health nursing can be a rewarding and fulfilling career, but it also has its own unique challenges that must not be overlooked.