Any type of nursing career is going to involve a lot of hard work mentally, physically, and emotionally. Mental health nursing is no different. There will be long hours, times of great stress and exhaustion, and demands on your resources that you hadn’t even considered when going into the profession. Nevertheless, for the right person, mental health nursing can be one of the most rewarding careers you can choose.
This is not the right career for someone who wants to coast along and take it easy and who would rather be anywhere else than on the job during working hours. However, if you enjoy challenging work that stretches you, makes use of all of your skills and knowledge, and that you know is worthwhile, mental health nursing will satisfy in every way possible.
Here are a few of the ways in which mental health nursing can be a very rewarding career.
You can make a difference to individuals
The top reason that most people cite for going into mental health nursing is the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. You will be working with some of the most vulnerable members of our society, empowering them to live independent lives as much as possible. Whether you are working with people with autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, dementia, or other conditions, you’ll address deep-rooted issues and help people work with their problems and adapt to their circumstances.
You might find yourself helping young children, older adults, or those who have served their country in the armed forces. This might involve confronting harrowing instances of trauma and abuse, but you will be fully trained to deal with these issues in a constructive and responsible fashion. The job satisfaction that comes from aiding recovery or helping someone to understand and live with their mental health issues is immense.
You can make a difference to society
In addition to helping individuals live their best possible lives, you’ll also have the knowledge that what you’re doing is enormously beneficial to society as a whole. In a stressful world, common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are on the rise. Mental health disorders can lead to substance and alcohol abuse, which also impacts the family and loved ones of the person with the condition.
As a mental health nurse, you’ll have the option of working in prisons, rehabilitation centers and treatment centers for alcohol and drug dependency, among other locations. Working in these institutions, you’ll perform a great service to society as a whole, helping to alleviate the growing burden of mental health problems.
You get to build relationships
Mental health nursing is all about building relationships, not only with patients and clients but also with their families and caregivers as you help them to understand the issues involved and how these can be addressed effectively. You’ll need to establish trust as you assist individuals and those close to them in working toward the best possible outcome.
Your work may involve maintaining a long-term, caring professional relationship with the same person, or it could involve creating a relationship with a community as you help to look after their collective mental health needs. In most cases, mental health treatment is a collaborative process in which you set goals, discuss treatments and methods, and work toward desired outcomes together.
Working as a mental health nurse gives you excellent opportunities for personal development. You’ll get the opportunity to view life from a wide range of different perspectives and will become more broad-minded and compassionate as a result. Soft skills such as patience, empathy, and tenacity are vital in mental health nursing, and you’ll be able to work on these qualities within yourself.
There’s no doubt that over the course of your career in mental health nursing, you’ll become a more compassionate and well-rounded person. You’ll become more confident in challenging situations and better able to manage your own mental health. These benefits will affect all areas of your professional and personal existence.
Improved communication skills are another quality you’ll gain through mental health nursing. Besides being able to communicate important information quickly, calmly, and effectively, you’ll also need to be aware at all times of your tone of voice, body language, and the need to be non-threatening in stressful situations. These skills are transferable to many other environments.
There are many opportunities to progress and diversify professionally as a mental health nurse. You might choose to specialize in any one of a wide range of areas or continue to develop a general mental health practice. Eventually, you might want to work in an advisory or executive capacity, such as a nursing team leader, a ward manager, a private consultant, or a teacher or policymaker.
Moving into academic study gives you the opportunity for research and publication as well as lecturing. You might want to help develop and lead mental health services in your community or even nationally. If you want to continue working with patients, you could set up your own private practice or take on more responsibilities within a hospital or organization.
You’re always in demand
Most qualified nurses find a long-term placement within six months of finishing their training. You can increase your options and your potential salary by earning an online master of science in nursing while earning a living in order to become a fully qualified psychiatric and mental health nursing practitioner.
The demand for mental health nurses has never been greater, and qualified practitioners are in short supply. This means that you are always likely to find a position. The stresses of modern life mean that mental health problems are on the rise, but society is also getting better at recognizing and treating these issues at an early stage. When you become a part of the solution, you’ll find that there is always plenty of worthwhile work for you to do.
Mental health nursing can be a job for life if that’s what you want. Redundancies are rarer than in other professions as the demand continues to outstrip the supply of qualified, capable professionals. As you progress up the career ladder, you’ll find different options opening up to you.
In an uncertain world, we will always need and value healthcare workers, and looking after the mind and our emotions is just as essential as taking care of our bodies and physical needs. By keeping abreast of the latest developments in mental health theory and treatment, you’ll further ensure that your career will continue to flourish.
Although salaries can vary depending on the region and your levels of training and experience, mental health nurses in the U.S. are well paid. As of August 2022, the typical hourly rate for a psychiatric nurse was $28.70, or $59,692 per year. Annual salaries can range from $35,000 to more than $100,000. Although money is not the main motivation for most mental health nurses, it’s true that the extensive training and long hours required are recompensed with a generous financial package that generally also includes competitive health and retirement plans.
Vacation time and study leave
Different rules will apply with different employers and according to your position and how many years you’ve held it, but mental health nurses can generally expect a good number of vacation days during the year. In part, this compensates for the long hours worked during the average week. It can also be possible to get time off for study leave, especially if you are aiming for a qualification that will make you better at your job.
Variety and flexibility
As a mental health nurse, you’ll find that every working day is different from the last. This variety means that you’ll never find the job becoming boring or repetitive. Each patient or client has individual needs, and these will change as treatment progresses. If you work with a community or in an outpatient department, the range of situations you’ll have to deal with will continue to keep you on your toes from one moment to the next.
There is also a huge amount of flexibility built into your career path. You may decide to specialize in working with children, young adults, or the elderly. There are clinics, centers, and hospital departments for specific mental health disorders, including eating disorders and substance abuse. With the right training, it’s always possible to move into an alternative specialization if that appeals to you more than your current area of work.
In a hospital, the shifts you’ll be expected to work will vary, but in many other settings, such as doctor’s offices, you will work regular business hours. If you decide to set up your own private nursing practice, you can set the hours you work according to your own needs (for example, working around family commitments or further study).
As a mental health nurse, you can choose between a wide variety of multiple and diverse work settings. You may decide that you want to try several of these over the course of your career. Options include hospitals, community health centers, residential centers, and prisons. There are also vacancies on military bases, in universities, and at large corporations.
A major hospital may have different mental health departments, such as a standard psychiatric ward, psychiatric intensive care, outpatient services, and specialist units for common disorders. You could also work in a doctor’s office or set up your own private practice in an office or from your own home. Your role may also involve visiting clients in their homes or places of residence.
Sometimes, when a career is described as challenging, it’s intended as a warning. However, constant challenges are what keep work stimulating and interesting. In mental health nursing, you’ll be able to use all of your skills and knowledge to the fullest extent. You’ll be able to push yourself, achieving a sense of personal satisfaction from solving problems and overcoming obstacles. If you’re the kind of person who never wants things to be easy and looks to grow in a job rather than just coast along, mental health nursing could be for you.
You get to use your own judgment
Being a mental health nurse isn’t about blindly following orders. You’ll be expected to use your own judgment in a variety of situations, from devising interventions to prescribing medication, and you’ll take responsibility for the outcome. In some cases, this may include identifying a risk of self-harm or of an individual harming other people and taking steps to prevent it.
While taking on this responsibility may sound daunting, it can also be extremely rewarding as you get to put your experience, training, and personal skills to good use in working toward a positive outcome for a patient or client. You get to be in control of your actions and can measure your progress by the outcomes.
Nursing is a vocation, not just a job, and this applies to mental health nursing in particular. You need to have the right qualities and outlook in order to succeed and enjoy the work. You’ll be someone who enjoys helping people and who is patient, empathetic, and accepting.
You’ll want to make a positive difference to the world, but your idealism will be tempered by realism and a sense of humor. You’ll be hard-working, with a thick skin and a caring nature, as well as calm, unflustered, sympathetic, and resilient. You’ll have excellent interpersonal, observational, and communication skills, and you will enjoy working in a team as well as on your own judgment.
In return, you’ll work long hours in a rewarding and stimulating environment. You’ll have job security and will be well-paid, with many in-work benefits. You’ll enjoy variety in your working day and will have a wide range of options for career progression and diversification – and you’ll never be lacking challenges.
Mental health nursing is a career that rewards you for what you put into it. If it sounds like a good fit for you, find out how you can become qualified today.