According to the 2010-11 "Occupational Outlook Handbook" published by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychiatric nurses care for patients seeking psychological or emotional health in clinics or psychiatric hospitals. The nurse helps with many everyday needs for a psychiatric patient, such as monitoring her health, recording a patient's mental health status, and aiding doctors with emotional and psychological assessments.
To become a psychiatric nurse, a nurse must have passed required courses in human anatomy and physiology, according to the BLS. Physiological knowledge helps the nurse understand how a patient's biomedical chemistry influences his mental health. For example, a nurse needs to know how a condition like schizophrenia impacts the chemicals in the nervous system. A psychiatric nurse also needs to know how to monitor a patient's health through routine physicals and health checks.
Communications skills are a necessary component to the everyday routine of a psychiatric nurse, says the BLS "Occupational Outlook Handbook." Since nurses spend the majority of their time with mentally or emotionally disturbed patients, they must know how to handle a patient who is exhibiting harmful behavior, either toward herself or others. The communications skills must relate to any psychological issues. For example, if a patient has a severe case of bipolar disorder, the nurse needs to communicate in a way that will not make the patient feel threatened, using a calm voice and a supportive demeanor.
A psychiatric nurse must be trained to handle daily paperwork and administration duties in a hospital or clinic. This includes coordinating medicinal dosages for each patient, documenting his medical intake for medical records, and informing the head doctors with any relevant information about the patient. A psychiatric nurse should know how to use all the medical equipment on hand, including heart rate monitors and liquid administration devices for blood transfusions or fluid hydration. They must also be prepared to perform general care duties like bathing the patient.
Knowledge of Psychological Disorders
Perhaps the most important skill a psychiatric nurse requires is detailed knowledge of psychiatric disorders. Nurses must know the differences between mood disorders, phobias, somatoform disorders, personality disorders and psychotic disorders like schizophrenia. The nurse must also be ready to handle the medical problems related to these disorders, such as when to use a sedative to calm down a patient or when to isolate him from others. A nurse must also be trained in the Hippocratic Oath and aim to help the patient without harming her well-being.
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