It’s been a tough year. Everyone’s mental health has suffered between the pandemic, global political upheaval, and significant changes to even the most fundamental aspects of our daily lives. Conversations around cultivating and maintaining psychiatric wellness, especially in the face of COVID-19, have become increasingly common. And the stigma surrounding therapy and other mental health treatments has been dramatically reduced over the past twelve months creating a stronger need for Mental Health Nursing professionals. 

Surprisingly, as the demand for voluntary psychiatric treatment has increased, the number of Mental Health Professionals has declined. Qualified — trained and licensed — Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists are becoming more difficult to find. Psychiatric Nurses then fill the gaps left by a waning professional group. Travel Nurses specializing in the psychiatric discipline will have no trouble finding work during this time.

What is a Psychiatric Nurse in Mental Health Nursing?

Psychiatric Nurses are those who treat patients with perceived or diagnosed mental disorders. Those mental conditions can include various psychiatric illnesses, including anxiety disorders, personality disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, and even different types of dementia or psychiatric disease resulting from traumatic injury.

Psychiatric Nurses work as part of a broader Mental Health Nursing and Healthcare Team, alongside Physicians and specialized Therapists, to help treat patients under their charge. The psychiatric care Nurses provide includes:

  • Monitoring patients’ vital signs, behavioral changes, moods, etc.
  • Assessing and diagnosing patients
  • Collaborating with Physicians to create a care plan for their patients 
  • Administering treatment, including pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions
  • Grooming, bathing, assisting patients with their medication, and other standard nursing tasks 

Psychiatric Nurses work in a wide range of inpatient, outpatient, or long-term and residential treatment centers. As a Psychiatric Nurse, you might find work in places like:

  • Outpatient clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Prisons
  • Schools
  • Disorder-specific care facilities
  • Retirement homes
  • Courts
  • Private practices
  • Pediatric residential facilities
  • And more

Depending on where you work, your shift can range in length from 8 to 12 hours a day. Typically, outpatient facilities will require shorter time commitments than hospitals or residential centers. 

It is essential to understand that being a psychiatric nurse requires a high degree of emotional intelligence. You will more often than not be caring for patients who will not think, feel, or perceive what we expect them to. You will need to be an excellent communicator and employ empathy with every interaction you have with your patients. You should always find ways to maintain a good work/life balance for the sake of your mental health. 

Mental Health Nursing and Psychiatric Nurse education, certification, and professional groups

A career in Psychiatric Nursing is just one of the many specialties you can choose after completing requisite nurse training. A Psychiatric Nurse will begin their trajectory in the same way as Nurses in any other specialty practice. First, you will need to earn an ADN or BSN, then pass the NCLEX-RN and become licensed. Typically, you will need at least two years of experience in primary nursing care before you can begin to specialize. 

Once you have earned 2000 hours of clinical experience in psychiatric intervention, you can apply for a psychiatric certification through the ANCC or American Nurses Credentialing Center. The approved application will give you a board-certified designation for five years. After this, you can begin to find work in specific psychiatric roles or facilities. 

It is also possible for Psychiatric Nurses to specialize within the discipline further. You can choose to work with specific age groups and specialize in geriatric or pediatric mental health interventions. Or, you might wish to pursue a career as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Each of these sub-specialties requires credentials or degrees. 

Psychiatric Nurse salary

According to, the average salary for psychiatric nurses is around $61,000 – $88,000+ per year. Of course, the pay you receive will depend on your years of experience, who you are treating, the type of facility you are working in, whether you are a staff or travel Nurse, and other factors.

For Nurses wishing to specialize in psychiatry, now is the right time to enter the field. As mentioned earlier, there is a shortage of qualified Psychiatrists available to work in direct-care facilities. As a result, there are plenty of open jobs, and Psychiatric Nurses are always highly valued by their working organizations.

And jobs are especially plentiful due to an ongoing shortage of nurses in general. Psychiatric Nurses especially have an excellent opportunity to negotiate for a higher salary. 

Of course, if you work as a Travel Nurse with a specialty in Psychiatric Nursing, there is potential to take home an even higher rate of pay and many other benefits. For example, one position as a Psych Nurse in San Bernardino, available through Medely, pays up to $1,863 per week plus travel stipends and other benefits. 


Medely is a nurse staffing platform that helps Nurses and Allied Healthcare Professionals find work that fits their lifestyle, whatever specialty they choose. Sign up today to find your next per diem or travel assignment at

Want to learn more about other nursing specialties? Check out our other article: What are the highest-paid nurses?