Psychiatric Nurse Job Description

Psychiatric Nurse Job Description, Skills, and Salary

Get to know about the duties, responsibilities, qualifications, and skills requirements of a psychiatric nurse. Feel free to use our psychiatric nurse job description template to produce your own. We also provide you with information about the salary you can earn as a psychiatric nurse.


Who is a Psychiatric Nurse?

A Psychiatric Nurse is a Registered Nurse who assesses, diagnoses, and treats patients with mental health illnesses. In other words, a Psychiatric Nurse is a specialist who cares for patients dealing with mental health and behavioral conditions.

A Psychiatric Nurse works with Nutritionists, Dieticians, and other health specialists to help treat patients with eating disorders; like anorexia, pica, and bulimia.


Psychiatric Nurses work with the lovers or family members of the patient to create a nursing plan for the patient and check for progress in the long run.

Psychiatric Nurses care for children, youths, and the elderly. Their expertise cut across treating mental health illnesses like schizophrenia, drug abuse, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, etc.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners are psychiatric nurses who have advanced their studies to the master’s or doctoral level. They undergo training to treat mental illnesses using psychopharmacology and psychotherapy.

Some of the sub-specialties of psychiatric nurse practitioners are psychogeriatric, child and adolescent, forensics, military, and addiction medicine.

Psychogeriatric: The branch of psychiatric nursing that treats mental health disorders in older persons. A psychogeriatric specialist treats mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, dementia, depression, addiction in older people, financial-related stress, emotional worry, death anxiety, and weird feeling that comes with being lonely or isolated.


Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: This is the examination and treatment of behavioral problems affecting children. The psychiatric nurse educates them, provides psychotherapy, and also administers medications. The specialist specializes in therapeutic modalities and treats mood disorders, learning difficulties, autism spectrum diseases, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and mental retardation in children.

Forensic Psychiatry: This specialty examines and treats mental illnesses associated with criminals. They take care of the psychological health of those in prisons and correctional centers and address all legal aspects of psychiatry.

Military Psychiatry: This specialty focuses on mental health conditions in the military. The specialist assesses and treats conditions like drug abuse, major depression, and traumatic stress. The specialists can work in settings where Veterans reside or converge.

Addiction Medicine: Addiction medicine is the specialty of medicine that evaluates, diagnose, and treats people suffering from drug abuse, addiction to sex, gambling, food, etc. Psychiatric nurses who specialize in this can work in hospitals, detoxification clinics, outpatient offices, halfway houses, and rehabilitation facilities.


Psychiatric Nurse Job Description

Below are the psychiatric nurse job description examples you can use to develop your resume or write a psychiatric nurse job description for your employee. Employers can also use it to sieve out job seekers when choosing candidates for interviews.

The duties and responsibilities of a psychiatric nurse include the following:

  • Cares for psychiatric patients
  • Offers psychological support to patients and their families.
  • Reviews charts and transcribes the orders from the doctor.
  • Tracks a patient’s progress and documents any changes in behavior or health.
  • Administers necessary medications.
  • Assists with crisis intervention or management
  • Provides fundamental counseling, such as general guidance or other forms of interpersonal support
  • Removes potentially hazardous and triggering environmental elements to prevent further illness or complications in patients.
  • Maintains the record of a patient’s health journeys and reports on significant changes.
  • Ensures psychoeducation and awareness, particularly within families.
  • Partakes in recreational activities with patients
  • Prepares and updates patient records
  • Motivates patients to participate in therapeutic activities such as art and role play.



There are certain degrees, certificates, and training you need to go through to qualify as a psychiatric nurse. It varies by country, though some countries have similar qualifications required to be a Psychiatric Nurse:

  • Acquire a Diploma in Nursing (3 years duration), Associate Degree in Nursing (2 years duration), or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (4 years duration).
  • Get licensed by passing National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam for those in the United States, Australia, and Canada.
  • For an advanced role, a Master’s Degree in Nursing or a Doctoral degree will suffice.
  • In addition to your qualification as a Psychiatric Nurse, you might require extra qualifications or degrees to work in another country. In the UK, one needs to register with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) to work as a psychiatric nurse. Before you register, you have to finish a pre-registration nursing degree or registered nurse degree apprenticeship delivered by an NMC-approved education institution (AEI).


Essential Skills

A psychiatric nurse is to have certain soft skills that complement their roles when dealing with patients and people in general. They are:

  • Emotional stability: Always be calm and be ready to motivate patients dealing with mental health issues to get better.
  • Interpersonal and communication skills: Psychiatric nurses should have excellent one-on-one communication skills to properly administer biopsychosocial assessments, communicate with other colleagues in mental health disciplines, and work to educate patients and families on therapies and medications.
  • Team player: to provide the best treatment, psychiatric nurses must collaborate with physicians, behavioral healthcare providers, and other members of the patient’s care team.
  • Problem-Solving: In psychiatric medicine, psychiatric nurses examine patient behaviors. Psychiatric nurses must also recognize and manage available resources for patients and their families; coordinate care based on a patient’s diagnosis and treatment plan. Due to how stressful their duties are, psychiatric nurses must demonstrate care and diligence.
  • Adaptability: A mental health nurse must be able to work in a variety of settings and cultures. Working in a residential place, for example, may necessitate attitudes and roles that differ from working in a community, as the nurse may have an authoritative or supervisory role in a residential setting that he/she does not necessarily have in a community.
  • Teaching Skills: This pertains to the nurse’s ability to explain things to the patient. It also requires making certain adjustments to the patient’s environment to ensure awareness of the surroundings. The nurse must be passionate about the patient’s activities and choices and give the patient every chance to make decisions.
  • Caring: As a psychiatric healthcare provider, you should be able to put patients at ease by displaying warmth, empathy, and a caring demeanor.
  • Self-awareness: As a care provider, the nurse must be able to examine personal feelings, actions, and reactions. The nurse’s firm understanding and acceptance allow for the recognition of a patient’s differences and uniqueness.
  • Crisis Control Skills: Some of the cases a nurse is likely to encounter in practice include aggressive and assaultive behavior of violent patients, self-harm, and drunk patients. Such circumstances may make the nurse feel incompetent or helpless. When confronted with such crises, the psychiatric nurse will practice strategic ways to request help.
  • Supervisory Management: Supervision is an essential requirement for any worker in the caring profession to ensure the best quality service. Interpersonal and professional skills, technical knowledge, leadership qualities, and human skills are all required for a good supervisor.
  • Teaching Skills: This pertains to the nurse’s skill to explain so that the patient completely understands. It also requires adjusting the patient’s environment to raise his awareness of his surroundings. The nurse must be passionate about the patients’ activities and choices and give the patient every chance to make decisions.


How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse

There are two levels (basic and advanced) one needs to reach to start as a psychiatric nurse.

To accomplish the basic level psychiatric position, a person must first become a registered nurse by earning a diploma, associate degree, or Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an approved tertiary institution. The prospective nurse must also complete a term of supervised clinical practice. After that, the nursing candidate has to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and get certification in the country where one resides. One can take the test in Australia, the United States, and Canada.

You need to register with the Nursing & Midwifery Council to work as a psychiatric nurse in the United Kingdom (NMC). To register for NMC, you must first finish a pre-registration nursing degree or registered nurse degree apprenticeship from an NMC-approved academic institution (AEI).

Registered Nurses must pursue extra education and get a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or doctorate to work in an advanced level of psychiatric nursing. Here are the steps one can follow to achieve this feat;

First Step: Acquire a Nursing Degree

Firstly, you must start and finish a preparatory nursing program. Most schools include a clinical rotation in psychiatric nursing, which allows you to get experience working in the profession. Volunteering at a mental health agency can give insight into working with these patients.

Secondly, you need to get a two-year associate degree in nursing, a three-year diploma in a nursing program (typically hospital-based), or a four-year college or university program leading to a bachelor’s degree in nursing.


Second Step: Obtain your Registered Nurse (RN) license.

After you graduate, take the RN license test, generally known as the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination). The National Council Licensure Examination for Nurses (NCLEX) is a national exam for nurses in the United States and Canada.

After passing this exam, you can apply for your first nursing job.


Third Step: Get your Psychiatric Nursing Certification.

If you wish to improve your skills even more in the United States, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers this certification, valid for five years.

Do the following to acquire it:

Have a valid, active registered nursing license in the United States or the licensed and legally acceptable equivalent in another country.

As a registered nurse, you have to work in a full-time job for at least two years.

You should have achieved at least 2,000 hours of clinical experience in psychiatric nursing and completed 30 hours of psychiatric nurse continuing education in the last three years.


Fourth Step: Further Your Psychiatry Nursing Career

If you wish to broaden your field of practice and increase your income potential to become an advanced psychiatric nurse, you can further your studies to acquire PMHNP-BC or PMHCNS-BC. Depending on your state, the title is a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC) or psychiatric mental health clinical nurse specialist (PMHCNS-BC).

Acquiring a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing will advance you in the psychiatric nursing field, and qualify you to be certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Choosing a graduate school is a big decision, so you have to verify that your school is among those accredited by the National League for Nursing (NLN) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).


Where to Work as a Psychiatric Nurse

Psychiatric Nurses are hardly unemployed and can work in places such as:

  • Facilities for assisted living
  • Behavioral health care businesses
  • Mental health clinics in the community
  • Teaching hospitals and VA hospitals are examples of hospitals.
  • Long-term care facility
  • Military hospitals or clinics
  • Offices for primary care
  • Personal practices
  • Rehabilitation facility
  • Hospitals that specialize in psychiatry or substance abuse
  • For forensic and other psych nurses, state and federal establishments (prisons as well as other institutions, including the legal system)
  • Colleges and universities.


Psychiatric Nurse Salary Scale

The salary scale or range depends on the country. Some countries pay better than others, and within themselves, salaries might vary by region. Here is the psychiatric nursing salary range for the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.

In the United States: The salary range for the role of a psychiatric nurse depends on the level of education, years of work experience, employer size, and location. The median annual income for registered nurses was $75,330, or $36.22 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2020. On average, a nurse working in a psychiatric or drug abuse hospital setting will take home $65,500 per year, though differences vary by region. The average Psychiatric Nursing Practitioner’s compensation is $144,540 per year, making it one of the highest-earning nurse careers.

In the United Kingdom: For fully qualified psychiatric nurses in the United Kingdom, salaries start at £24,255 and rise to as high as £33,734 on Band 5 of the NHS Agenda. You will progress through the levels as you gain experience. Most experienced nurses work in Bands 6 and 7, earning between £32,306 and £45,839. A nurse consultant is one of the highest-paid nursing positions, with starting wages ranging from £47,126 to £53,219.

In Canada: The annual salary of a psychiatric nurse in Canada is $80,150, or $41.22 per hour, while entry-level roles start at $73,575 per year, with most experienced workers earning as high as $87,159 per year.

Job Description

Leave a Reply