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How psychiatric nurses Can transform Mental Health Care




The world of mental health treatment has come a very long way since the first developments of more modern psychiatric and psychological treatment. Over the past 150 years or so, there is no question that we have gained a far more sophisticated understanding of the human psyche and explored many different avenues for treating and managing mental health issues. Yet that doesn’t mean that there is nothing more to be learned and no more improvements to be made. On the contrary, both in the US and across the world, the growing demand for mental health care and a range of different challenges, from state and federal budget issues to financial inequality and changing healthcare models, means that improvement and further evolution are absolutely essential.

Within the changing landscape of mental health care, the role of psychiatric nurses in providing assistance and also helping to shape reform is a crucial one as they play an integral role in everyday care. They also have the experience and expertise that can help drive the evolution of care.

In this article, we examine the typical role of a psychiatric nurse, why they are ideally suited to shaping change and how they are capable of identifying the most important areas of concern. In addition, we also look at how psychiatric nurses can gain further educational experience, the type of expertise that is required to perform well in this role and how this can be applied to making improvements in mental health care.

Challenging times

The mental health system in the US is under pressure. The intensity and pressures of our modern lifestyles often place significant strain on mental health, while the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic issues that followed in its wake have also made life increasingly difficult for many Americans. On a more positive note, there is no question that awareness of the importance of mental health is on the rise, and it is being taken far more seriously by most people. This latter development is undoubtedly a forward step: only by recognizing the issue and asking for assistance can people hope to genuinely tackle mental health issues. At the same time, this increased willingness to seek out care has arguably also contributed to the even greater demand for mental health care treatment.

There are millions of trained mental health professionals in the US who operate in a wide range of institutions and across many different fields. Naturally, many people are fortunate enough to receive high-quality care and get the help that they need. At the same time, there are also plenty of instances where people are either completely unable to access care or cannot get the specific services or treatment required.

In addition to lack of access, in the past there were also many instances where even if they did receive some kind of treatment, many patients felt that they were not necessarily treated with respect. In many cases, patients may have needed more tailor-made solutions capable of dealing with their specific issues. This was particularly true in more severe circumstances such as inpatient psychiatric facilities or drug rehabilitation centers, where too often the person behind the problem could get lost behind the immediate need to treat the problem.

There is a growing realization in mental health circles that a more intricate, sophisticated approach is needed. After all, no two people are the same, and every patient requires individualized, dignified and carefully planned treatment that can truly help them. Fortunately, today there are also many mental health experts who are constantly looking for ways to improve and reform services, while a more patient-centered, holistic approach to treating mental health issues has been gaining wider acceptance. One figure key to the development of a sophisticated, human philosophy to mental health is the psychiatric nurse.

The vital role of psychiatric nurses

Psychiatric nurses are specially trained nurses who are responsible for caring for and treating the psychological and physical wellbeing of people who suffer from mental health conditions, behavioral problems and other kinds of issues related to mental health. The role of a psychiatric nurse is often very wide-ranging, and it is precisely this broad range of knowledge and expertise that make them so important in shaping patient-centered care. While psychiatrists are primarily tasked with treating acute issues and providing care for the problem in front of them, psychiatric nurses are often tasked with dealing with various aspects of the general wellbeing of the patient in addition to helping to provide immediate primary care.

If a patient experiences a severe and acute mental health issue, a psychiatric nurse may be responsible for helping the psychiatrist or other healthcare staff provide the initial care required and formulate a treatment plan. In many cases, they will also be involved in additional areas too, such as offering aftercare, monitoring the patient’s vital signs and overall situation, and communicating with them about their general state of health. In addition, a psychiatric nurse may also be required to help the patient identify other resources that may help them in their recovery, and to confer with their family members or close friends about the issue.

Greater insight

For this reason, psychiatric nurses are uniquely well-placed to provide insight into how to improve the way that mental health care is provided in terms of ensuring that the care offered is comprehensive and takes into account a range of factors that can affect a person’s mental health beyond the essential problem and immediate treatment, such as medication. These factors can include anything from lifestyle to diet choices, work-life balance, interpersonal relationships and issues related to stress, as well as severe issues that can place strain on a person’s mental health, such as emotional abuse, disability, illness, bereavement or drug and alcohol addiction.

Psychiatric nurses can also offer clues on how to provide greater emotional support for both patients and their loved ones. Compassion is a key part of any psychiatric nurse’s work. This is why in any health institution interested in instigating internal change, it is crucial to speak to the best psychiatric nurses. They should have in-depth knowledge on how to ensure a more patient-centered approach, and how to ensure that every single patient is always shown the consideration and the dignity they deserve.


The best nurses are highly adept at handling sensitive topics and are experienced in working with and treating a diverse range of people from all walks of life. For this reason, psychiatric nurses can also make an important contribution in the field of inclusivity and diversity. For example, an administrator in a psychiatric facility who is not a health professional may have a huge amount of experience in many different areas and may be capable of making major improvements but may not have their own clinical experience. In this case, they may be able to learn a great deal by speaking to a psychiatric nurse who has intimate knowledge of the daily life of the facility. As the first point of contact with patients, psychiatric nurses may have a greater understanding of the intricacies and nuances of both staff interactions and interactions between patients and medical professionals.

Building a better practice

Psychiatric nurses are often extremely knowledgeable when it comes to issues like infrastructure and efficient use of resources too. After all, although back-office staff, psychiatrists and other medical professionals are often highly involved in a wide range of activities in the everyday life of a psychiatric facility, it is often the nurses who are responsible for helping to ensure that day-to-day tasks are carried out and operations run efficiently. This means they are frequently the best people to talk to when it comes to working out the kinds of improvements that can be made in operations in order to achieve greater efficiency without negating the ability to provide the very best care to patients.

Psychiatric nurses can also play an important role in helping to establish good teamwork among the medical professionals working at the facility. Nurses are often responsible for not only liaising with patients and doctors, but also working with different departments and back-office staff to ensure close cooperation and to share crucial information about patients and their treatment.

In addition, the best psychiatric nurses may also be helpful in terms of recruitment, where they can use their soft skills to encourage new nurses to join the team. They may also be able to provide important insight into offering good governance too, thanks to their experience in helping to ensure that all legal and medical guidelines are adhered to.

The right preparation

In many cases, nurses who are interested in becoming more involved in shaping and changing the way mental health care is provided will complete a further qualification that can equip them with the additional skills needed to be truly effective in positions of leadership or greater responsibility. Some nurses will complete a master’s degree as a psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner, for example. This kind of advanced nursing program is explicitly designed to help teach nurses to apply advanced knowledge and critical thinking skills to provide evidence-based mental and behavioral healthcare to patients of all ages.


With an Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) degree from a reputable institution such as Wilkes University, students have the chance to study both advanced diagnostic reasoning for nurse practitioners and examine the health perspectives of culturally diverse, rural and under-served populations. This enables them to form a sophisticated understanding of the best practices in these fields while learning how to apply these practices in a clinical setting. In addition, students also study a wide range of other crucial topics, including advanced pathophysiology and pharmacology and advanced health assessments. With online coursework and clinical placement support, these kinds of online psych NP programs are typically more flexible than on-campus courses.

Shaping the future

After qualifying as a nurse practitioner, graduates will be ready to take on a greater level of responsibility in their everyday work. They will also be more attractive to employers or executives who are looking to drive change in mental health care, but who require people with both a significant degree of practical experience and the theoretical and technical knowledge to ensure that the right decisions are made along the way.

To truly make a difference in the way that mental health is treated in a particular facility or even in the state or entire country, nurses need to be capable of providing first-class care themselves through a combination of clinical expertise, the requisite soft skills and a high level of communication. They also need to possess a significant amount of determination and tenacity, combined with an openness to new ideas and the ability to keep learning and improving throughout the course of their career.

There is no doubt as to the importance of psychiatric nurses and psychiatric nurse practitioners to the future of mental health. Without their everyday work, high-quality psychiatric and mental health treatment would be impossible. Perhaps even more importantly, if they want to build a better future for mental health care, leaders and executives need to learn how to harness the considerable wealth of experience, expertise and knowledge that nurses possess in order to identify the very best way forward.

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