Mental Health Nurse in 2023

Mental Health Nurse in 2023

Over the past years, mental health has been one of the biggest concerns of medical practitioners. The increasing population and the constantly changing world present a wide range of problems affecting mental health. Governments are concerned with mental health care as citizens become unproductive when faced with these challenges. For this reason, the demand for mental health specialists is steadily rising. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for mental health specialists is projected to rise steadily through 2038. This news is encouraging for those who pursue careers in this field as they will have many career opportunities.


One of the main career paths in the mental health care field is mental health nursing. A mental health nurse is a professional caregiver of patients with mental health complications. There are various sub-branches in the mental health care field. To be a licensed nurse, you must specialize in one of these branches. The branch you specialize in determines where you will work and how much you benefit from your career. Therefore, you need to pay close attention to factors that might affect your studies and professional life. Consulting career experts and practicing mental health nurses gives you a clear picture of the profession and the job market.


For an in-depth understanding of mental health nursing, we explore the following:


  1. Responsibilities of a mental health nurse
  2. Qualities of a successful mental health nurse
  3. Career path options for mental health nurses
  4. Average salary for a mental health nurse.

Responsibilities of A Mental Health Nurse

Mental health nurses play a vital role in the medical field. Understanding what is expected of you as a mental health nurse is essential when entering this career. A mental health nurse is also referred to as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. As a professional in the mental health care field, your role depends on your specialization and the institution where you work. Some nursing roles cut across all specializations, no matter what area of nursing you work in. These roles include:


  • Monitoring Patients’ Progress

One of the main roles of mental health nurses is to monitor a patient through their recovery process. In most psychiatric institutions, the psychiatrists are usually busy attending to different patients and might miss crucial details. For this reason, mental health nurses are essential to monitoring how patients respond to treatment and report their findings to the psychiatrist. In some cases, the mental health nurse might administer treatment according to the doctor’s prescription. Such cases apply to patients that need repetitive treatment procedures through their recovery period.

  • Administering Treatment Procedures

Psychiatrists diagnose mental health problems in patients and prescribe the right treatment. Mental health nurses acting on behalf of the psychiatrist can administer some medications and treatments in the absence of the psychiatrist. However, a mental health nurse cannot handle all mental conditions. Disorders such as depression require therapy from an experienced psychiatrist for faster recovery. When patients in therapy start with a psychiatrist, it is hard to transition to a medical health nurse. Such patients have confidence in the psychiatrist, and changing that could affect their recovery process.

  • Taking Care of Mentally Challenged Individuals

Some mental disorders are chronic or permanent, implying that patients might not recover and need to be taken care of throughout their life. Mental health nurses working in homes for such patients have the responsibility to look after them. Their roles might include ensuring they observe the proper diet, cleanliness, and keeping away from harm. A mental health nurse could also take care of mentally challenged individuals living with their families. They advise other family members on how to handle the patient. Where caregivers need counseling, the mental health nurse could involve a professional psychiatrist.


There are many institutions in need of mental health nurses. Some of these institutions are run by the government, while others are privately owned. As a mental health nurse, your specialization determines where you work. Institutions have different mental health care needs. Therefore, you should consider your specialty when applying to be a mental health care nurse in an institution. You may care for patients dealing with substance abuse or those dealing with severe mental illness. 


Some common places where mental health nurses work include:


  • Assisted-Living Facilities

An assisted living facility is where individuals who cannot support themselves stay to get assistance. These individuals are taken care of by specialists that make their lives more comfortable. They include homes for the elderly and mentally challenged individuals. As a mental health nurse, your role in assisted-living facilities will be ensuring the patients get whatever they need. Specializing in Geriatric psychiatry makes it easy to work in assisted-living facilities. This specialization places you in a position to handle mental complications such as depression and dementia that affect elderly people.

  • Schools

Academic institutions are among the top organizations in need of mental health care services. Students and teachers need to be in the right state of mind for good performance. Medical health nurses who major in school psychology are likely to be employed in academic institutions. They help improve the performance of teachers and students with behavioral complications. Additionally, mental health nurses help students overcome trauma from events they experience while at home or school. Such events include bullying by fellow students and staff.

  • Correctional Facilities

A significant portion of the people in prisons and rehabilitation centers suffer from mental challenges. These conditions make it harder for them to reform from their initial habits, and some end up committing suicide. Mental health nurses work together with psychiatrists in these institutions to help individuals recover from mental complications. In rehabilitation centers, individuals suffer from the withdrawal effects of substances they initially used. Mental health nurses that specialize in psychosomatic medicine can work in such institutions. Psychosomatic medicine deals with the impact of mental disorders on physical health.


There are many other places you can work as a mental health nurse. These include individual family homes with mentally challenged family members. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for mental health care professionals is steadily growing. Irrespective of your specialization, you can easily find employment.

Qualities of A Successful Mental Health Nurse

Getting employment as a psychiatric nurse is easy due to the high demand for mental health professionals. However, employment alone does not guarantee success in the mental nursing career. Many other factors could affect how successful you are, including the diversity of your skills in the profession. Mental health nursing is a technical career path. It requires more than academic excellence to succeed. If you want to be a mental health nurse, you should have or learn the following qualities as a person.


  • Patience- The nursing profession requires patient individuals. Patients with mental health problems might take a long time to recover. You can easily give up on patients with persistent complications if you are not patient. Mental health nursing programs at various levels of study take a long and involve a lot of technical content. You must be patient enough to pursue your studies to the end. You need the patience to go through your licensing process as it might take longer with examinations in between.
  • Passion- Mental health nurses work in challenging situations. It is hard to deal with mentally ill individuals. This makes it hard for individuals that aren’t passionate about the career. Being passionate about mental health allows you to enjoy practicing as a mental health nurse.


Mental health care requires a wide range of other qualities and skills. The skills determine the quality of service you offer to patients. Mental health nurses with the right skill set achieve faster and better recovery for their patients. This implies that one is only as successful as much as their skills allow. Some of the skills you need as a mental health nurse include:


  • Problem-solving skills- Most mental health complications originate from problems people face in life. A mental health nurse should have problem-solving skills to help overcome problems that patients under their care might encounter. Problem-solving skills place you in a position to speed up the recovery of patients. If you work in an academic institution, you should apply these skills to improve the performance of students and tutors under your care. Your ability to formulate viable solutions to problems affecting mental health determines how successful you become.
  • Analytical and cognitive skills- One of the primary roles of a mental health nurse is taking care of mentally ill patients. They then report their findings to the psychiatrist in charge of the treatment. Individuals with mental health issues are susceptible to many complications. As a mental health nurse, you must identify symptoms and report them before they worsen. Analytical skills allow you to evaluate problems and develop a remedy as you wait for a psychiatrist. Sharp cognitive skills allow you to tell what a patient could be suffering from by their behavior. Mental health nurses working in correctional facilities require cognitive skills the most. Cognitive skills help you tell when a recovering addict is likely to experience withdrawal symptoms.
  • Socialization skills- Some mental health patients have socialization issues. The inability to socialize causes a significant number of people to suffer from depression. When taking care of such patients, you must be accommodating to them. They should be free when expressing what is affecting their mental health. To achieve this, you must perfect your socialization skills. In most cases, a patient goes through the mental health nurse before meeting the psychiatrists. Good socialization skills enable you to boost your patient’s confidence in their psychiatrists and the treatment they will receive.


Although the above-named skills and qualities are essential for success as a mental health care professional, they don’t guarantee employment. There are various factors that employers look for before selecting individuals for employment. These factors include:


  • Work Experience

There are many employment opportunities in the mental health care field. Some of these opportunities are reserved for individuals graduating from mental health degree programs. However, you are more likely to be employed if you have a record of previous employment in a related field. Most employees look for employees that have worked in mental health care before. Experienced employees bring on board perfected skills that boost the patients’ confidence in the institution.

  • Determination

The success of mental health facilities depends on the efforts put in by the mental health care staff. Employers look for determined employees to build the reputation and future of their organizations. As a mental health care nurse, you should strive to deliver success for the organization and your patients. To boost determination at work, many employers reward hard-working mental health nurses with promotions to senior positions. This implies that you can only rise through ranks in this profession if you are determined to succeed.

  • Diverse Skill Set

Hiring mental health professionals is quite costly. For this reason, many employers seek to avoid spending too much by hiring multi-skilled professionals. As a mental health nurse, having more than one skill places you in a better position to compete for employment opportunities. Additionally, you might earn higher salaries for the extra skill you use to serve patients under your employer. It is easy to diversify your skillset with the current education system. You can enroll in an alternative training program and study while working. A diverse skillset makes you relevant to your employer; thus, you are retained in case of retrenchments or retirement.

Career Path Options for Mental Health Nurses

Like other careers, mental health nursing has a career path that you must follow to be successful. However, the career path could be technical compared to other careers outside the medical field. Being a mental health nurse is more than getting a degree. There are many forms of degrees you can get to be in the mental health nursing career. These degrees include an online MSN degree or nursing certificates from accredited trade institutions. The career path might vary depending on the state or country in which you wish to practice. Here are typical things to expect on your career path to being a professional mental health nurse:


  • Associate Degree Programs

An associate degree is a minimum requirement to be a mental health nurse in most states. This is a two-year degree program that you can enroll in right after high school. Some institutions require you to have a bachelor’s degree to be hired, though. With an associate degree, you can bridge to a BSN degree in any of the many institutions offering the program. To secure employment with an associate degree, you might need work experience and other skills.

  • Bachelor’s Degree Programs

A bachelor’s in nursing degree is also referred to as an undergraduate degree. With this nursing degree, you can work as a registered nurse and choose to advance your studies to master’s and Ph.D. levels or get licensed to practice. Most people go into psychiatric nursing as a registered nurse, and then, later on, advance their studies to become an advanced practice nurse. Getting experience allows them to figure out areas of specialization and save up funds for their studies.

  • Licensing Programs

Mental health nursing is a regulated career. There are professional bodies with a mandate to regulate how nurses operate in this field. These bodies have the responsibility of licensing qualified mental health nurses. After completing your degree program, you must meet certain requirements to be a licensed nurse. One of these requirements is the completion of a supervised internship in a recognized psychiatric facility. Licensing policies vary from one state to another. This implies that a license in one state might be invalid in another. One of the main licensing bodies is the Nursing Regulatory Body (NRB).


There are many ways to develop your career as a licensed nurse. However, it will require a lot of effort irrespective of the field in which you practice. Here are some common ways to rise in your career as a mental health nurse:


  • Specialization- One of the best ways to rise in your career is through specialization. With specialization, you become an expert in one subject and deal with specific mental health patients. Specializing in Geriatric psychiatry allows you to deal specifically with people in assisted-living institutions. Being a specialist in one subject boosts the confidence of your patients, thus increases your earnings. Specialization affects the trajectory of your career. Therefore, you should pay close attention to the field you specialize in.
  • Nurse Leadership- Leadership positions contribute to your portfolio as a professional and make it easy for you to rise through the ranks. You can contest for leadership positions in professional organizations or start foundations under your leadership. Leading mental health nurses groups prepares you for leadership at the company and national level. As a leader, you can influence certain policies that affect the well-being of mental health nurses. Institutions seek to build their reputation by associating with professionals in leadership positions. This implies that you will have more employment opportunities by holding leadership positions in relevant groups.


Since there is a mental health nursing shortage worldwide, you might have to deal with more problems than expected. In cases where you are less occupied or unsatisfied with your employment, you can venture into a different field. Mental health nursing knowledge applies in several other fields, including education. You can advance your education and become a mental health nurse trainer. In such a case, you will be sharing your expertise with younger professionals in the field to help them become better nurses. Additionally, you can start your own home or school for mentally ill individuals. This allows you to earn while doing what you like, taking care of patients with mental disorders.

Average Salary for A Mental Health Nurse

Financial considerations are essential when selecting a career. Mental nursing careers are not an exemption. Before deciding to venture into this career, you must know the expected returns on investment you are likely to get. Consulting practicing mental health nurses and looking at the career outlook for mental health nurses is important. They give you a clear picture of what the career is in terms of salaries. Here are some factors that could affect your salary as a mental health nurse:


  • Your employer– The government regulates the minimum wage for mental health nurses across the country. However, how much you receive above that depends on your employer. Some employers pay higher salaries and benefits to mental health nurses. Such institutions include non-governmental organizations and private homes. Although working for the government presents many opportunities, you might not earn as much as others working in the private sector. International organizations also pay higher salaries to non-local employees. These payments target to cater to their allowances and other needs while working away from home.
  • Job description– Your role in the psychiatric facility you work for determines how much you earn. If you have more responsibilities, you are likely to earn a higher salary. For instance, institutions with a higher patient to mental nurse ratio pay higher. Nurses in such institutions work longer hours as they have to take care of many patients. If you are in a leadership position within your institution, you will earn more than the junior staff. Nurses in administrative positions formulate policies that facilitate the running of institutions they work for. The reputation of psychiatric institutions depends on individuals in managerial positions. These include representatives of mental health nurses.
  • Demand for mental health nurses– The characteristics of populations vary from one region to another. Although all demographics face mental health issues, the issues they face are not identical. This implies that certain mental nursing specialists might be required in one region more than another. Before specializing, you should evaluate the job market you wish to practice in for opportunities. Practicing in areas with a huge supply of specialists in your field lowers the likelihood of earning more money as a mental health nurse. This could be challenging if you spent a lot of money on education and live in cities with high costs of living.


More factors affect how much you earn as a mental health nurse. Higher pay is usually awarded after a certain period. Starting salaries are lower than what you will earn at the peak of your career. Starting salaries vary from one institution to another, depending on your specialization. Additionally, the time it takes before receiving a salary increase depends on the contract between you and the employer. You should pay attention to contract clauses when employed as they directly affect how much you will earn.


You need to be open-minded to earn more as a mental health nurse. There are many opportunities in the mental health nursing career that could generate income. If you earn less as an employee, you can venture into independent practice. However, independent mental nursing requires several licenses and work experience. Having experience in mental health nursing guarantees trust from patients. As a result, you might get referrals that result in a wider network of patients and clients. Advancing your studies in mental health nursing equips you with the necessary skills to be a consultant. This implies that you will be guiding practicing mental health nurses on various issues at a fee. Networking is one of the essential skills you need to succeed as an independent mental health nursing practitioner. It allows you to create useful connections with potential employers and clients. Additionally, it opens your eyes to opportunities and ways of exploiting them.

In Summary

Mental health nurses play an essential role in the medical sector. They assist in the treatment and care of patients with mental health complications. Pursuing a psychiatric mental health nursing career requires dedication. Handling mentally challenged individuals is challenging. You might have to work for long hours or wait for a very long time before a patient recovers. It could also be burdening emotionally since most mental health services involve listening to patients talk about terrible events they go through. Working in correctional facilities places you at risk of physical harm. Individuals in prison and those in rehabilitation centers could develop violent behaviors as a withdrawal symptom.

Before you start practicing as a registered mental health nurse, you need to fulfill certain requirements by the professional board to be licensed. These requirements include meeting the minimum educational standards, which is usually an associate degree. You can practice under a licensed mental health nurse as an intern before you get licensed. This allows you to gain experience while fulfilling the requirement by the licensing board to complete an internship. Licensing programs vary from one state to another. If you wish to practice in a different state, you should check to ensure your license meets the conditions in your state of interest.

How much you earn as a mental health nurse depends on many factors, including your employee. However, if you need to make more money, you should practice as an independent nurse or a consultant. These advanced career levels give you the freedom to focus on other activities that make life better for mental health nurses. These include research on better treatments for mental health complications.


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