The Journey To Becoming A Psychiatric Nurse

The Journey To Becoming A Psychiatric Nurse

The Journey To Becoming A Psychiatric Nurse

Amongst the many diverse specialization opportunities in the nursing field, psychiatric nurses often face one of the most challenging, yet important roles. Psychiatric nurses provide professional nursing and mental health care to patients facing a mental health crisis. They work to promote and help patients restore and maintain a positive mental health state.

If a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner strikes your interest, read on to learn if it may be the right fit for you, how to become one in Canada, gain an insight into the duties of the role, the salary expectations and everything else you need to know going in!

Male nurse wearing navy scrub top and bottom

Is Psychiatric Nursing The Right Fit?
The first step is to determine if a career path in psychiatric nursing is the right fit for your personality, skills and interests. You may be well suited for the role if the following apply to you:

  • You exude compassion and empathy. Patients need to feel heard and have their concerns acknowledged in the face of a mental struggle or traumatic experience. A caring and gentle bedside manner is a must in establishing a trusting relationship when delivering care to avoid escalating risk for the patient, as well as others.

  • You have an interest and desire to treat patients facing psychological, social, mental and emotional disorders.

  • You’re calm, collected and able to diffuse conflict under pressure. Working as a psychiatric nurse will often necessitate the need to effectively de-escalate conflict, contend with aggression in others, and not shy away from difficult situations. You’ll need to be comfortable working in a challenging, dynamic, and fast-paced healthcare setting.
Healthcare worker smiling in lab coat meeting patient

What does a psychiatric nurse do?
Psychiatric nurses work independently or as part of multidisciplinary healthcare teams to provide holistic client-centred quality nursing care to patients. They can expect to perform a variety of nursing related duties including the following:

- Completing health histories, physical examinations, and mental assessments

- Managing nursing care plans for patients

- Administering medications and evaluating treatment effectiveness

- Observing behavioural changes

- Developing and implementing strategies to promote the mental and physical health and wellbeing of patients

- Providing counselling and therapy to patients

How to Become A Psychiatric Nurse
Once you know the specialty is the right fit for you, your journey to becoming a registered psychiatric nurse in Canada begins with completing an approved post-secondary nursing program. You will then need to successfully pass the Registered Psychiatric Nurse of Canada Examination (RPNCE) or Canadian Registered Nurse Examination (CRNE).There are a number of accredited psychiatric nursing educational programs in Canada which provide a special focus on mental and physical health and illnesses, including Douglas College in BC and MacEwan University in Alberta.

Individuals can also first qualify as a registered nurse (RN) and then go on to gain work experience in the area of Psychiatric-Mental Health nursing. Upon gaining 2 years of career experience in this specialty as an RN, they would then be eligible to apply to write the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) specialty certification examination in the area of Psychiatric-Mental Health.

Career Outlook
Okay, so you’ve made it through the gruelling educational requirements to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, congrats! Now what? Well, the good news is that you’ll be well compensated for your hard work and the challenging role you’re about to take on. Psychiatric nurses are in high demand. You can expect to enter into a career with an above average outlook. Compensation will vary depending on your educational level and experience, as well as location.The median annual salary for the role is $85,510 per year in BC. 

Nurse wearing women's black underscrub top and olive performance jogger scrubs

While the challenges of a role in psychiatric nursing are unavoidable, we’ll be right at your side with performance-ready scrubs to make sure you don’t break a sweat as you undoubtedly rise to the occasion!