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Become a Psychiatric Nurse: Here’s the Path to Take

Becoming a psychiatric nurse is one of the most noble professions one can pursue. Here’s what to expect on your journey and what will get out of this passion.

Are you considering become a psychiatric nurse in the UK?

Being a nurse in itself is a noble pursuit. Becoming a psychiatric nurse is an even nobler one to a degree– individuals and families with psychiatric disorders often don’t receive the care and validation they need. The psychiatric nurse position is a caring profession that aims to assess and help those suffering from psychiatric illnesses.

But how do you start? Where is the first step? We put together a sort of how-to guide for potential psychiatric nurses out there who want to get into this rewarding field.

First, let’s take a look at some of the main duties of a psychiatric nurse before we get into our how-to guide.

What Exactly Is A Psychiatric Nurse And What are Their Duties?

By definition, a psychiatric nurse is a nurse who has specialized in mental health and works with people of any age with mental illnesses that includes schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, etc.

Psychiatric nurses receive niche training in psychological therapies, learn how to safely deal with violent behavior, and learn how to properly administer psychiatric medication.

A few major duties of a psychiatric nurse include:

  • Providing direct care,
  • Facilitating social and emotional needs,
  • Supervising medication schedules,
  • Evaluating the progress of the patient,
  • Collaborate with other experts,
  • Educating the patient’s family on proper care,
  • Creating a supportive environment,
  • Planning long-term care or recovery plan.

Psychiatric nurses work in psychiatric institutes, hospitals, prisons, and a ton of other facilities where their expertise and ability to care is needed.

How To Become A Psychiatric Nurse

This guide is directed towards aspiring psychiatric nurses in the UK specifically– other countries may have a completely different path.

Earn A Bachelor’s Degree

In order to become a psychiatric nurse, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, also known as a BSN.

This degree takes four years of intensive study to complete. But once you’ve earned it, you will be able to become a registered nurse.

There are a ton of legitimate and respectable nursing programs all over the UK to look into.

It may be a little disheartening that you’ll have to go to school for four years, but keep in mind that this portion of your journey is the longest compared to the rest of your journey.

What To Expect

Four years of education that can be very intense, but ultimately informative and rewarding for the knowledge alone.

Do An Internship

While you’re doing undergraduate stuff, you should strongly consider interning for a medical facility, specifically in a mental healthy medical facility.

The main purpose of this internship isn’t just to look good on paper. Hands-on experience when you’re first getting into your psychiatric nurse journey can really help you decide if this field is right for you. And it isn’t right for everyone– mental health professionals often endure copious amounts of stress and emotional exhaustion.

What To Expect

Validation that you’re doing exactly what you should be, or a strong wake-up call that psychiatric nursing is just not for you.


The NCLEX-RN, also know as the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses is a national test that post-graduate nurses must take in order to become registered nurses.

To register for this exam, you can get in touch with your local department of nursing for details and what additional requirements you’ll need to meet.

What To Expect

An approximate £130 fee to take the test and an incredibly anxious time.

Find Your First Job

Look specifically in the mental health field of nursing for registered nursing jobs. This first position in the mental health field is very important. It is essentially you getting your foot in the door of becoming a full-fledged psychiatric nurse.

You need experience in this field and this first mental health nursing job will be just that.

What To Expect

Rejection. This is a given for any fresh-out-of-school graduate, and it is important to not be discouraged. Apply to as many places as you possibly can, and you will eventually find success.

Earn A Master’s Degree

In order to become a certified mental health nurse practitioner, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you will have to go to school. Again.

The master’s of nursing program is vital to becoming a specialist. In this program, you will learn everything there is to learn about caring for patients with mental illnesses.

Don’t sweat it– you’re not going back to school for another four years. A master’s program takes typically two years tops to complete.

The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission can help you find a program that will suit your needs.

What To Expect

Two more years of school and a much more in-depth education in mental health nursing.

Become An APN

An APN is an Advanced Practice Nurse. In order to become one, you’ll have to apply with you local nursing department.

The requirements for this vary from area to area, but most will require yet another test.

What To Expect

A test, a fee, and probably the simplest task you’ll have to complete on your psychiatric nursing journey. So rest easy.

Nurse Practitioner Certification

Does this sound a little redundant? Don’t worry– this isn’t a requirement and is definitely optional, but APNs with a niche in mental health treatment should look into getting a nurse practitioner certification.

The American Academy of Nurse Practitioner (AANP) is the organization you’ll have to go through to do this, and you must have at least a master’s degree in nursing to take the exam.

What To Expect

A £200+ test and the end of your psychiatric nurse journey academically. Unless you wish to become an educator.

Good Luck On Your Journey!

Starting on the path towards any medical career is often difficult, but we believe in you. We hope this post can give you some insight on what to expect.

Don’t forget to consult respectable and reliable resources about nursing while you’re on your journey as well.

Do you have a psychiatric nurse success story? Inspire others and comment below!

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