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How Long Does Becoming a PN Take

6 years

Average salary: PN



Psychiatric Nurse

Psychiatric nursing requires a special amount of patience, compassion, and mental strength. You will be trusted with meeting the complex medical and psychological needs of various mentally-challenging patients. It can be grueling, but those who can stick with it will find an immensely gratifying and rewarding line of work that will always keep them on their toes.



Psych mental health nurses (or PMHNs, per the American Psychiatric Nurses Association)  provide mental health care to a wide variety of communities and demographics, including children, teenagers, and adults. With strong communication and adaptability, they provide care and treatment for a number of different mental conditions, including (but not limited to) bipolar disorder, substance abuse, depression anxiety, and schizophrenia. Being a psych nurse will demand a lot out of your fundamental/behavioral science knowledge, interpersonal skills, and open-mindedness to a variety of different lifestyles and worldviews.  Key conditions they provide treatment for include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and substance misuse. This is a job that requires great communication and relationship-building abilities, as well as flexibility and an openness to other lifestyles. After all, you will be providing care for patients from a wide variety of financial statuses, ethnicities, and beliefs.


Tasks and responsibilities

Psychiatric nurses are expected to juggle numerous tasks at once:

  • Carrying out nursing and therapy care plans.

  • Observing patient condition and notifying superiors on any sudden changes in condition.

  • Administering medication when needed, and observing the patient’s reaction for potential side effects.

  • Offering counseling services and carrying out group therapy, when needed.

  • Closely collaborating with your healthcare team.

  • Educating patients on healthy coping strategies.

  • Keeping calm and de-escalating difficult situations such as sudden violent outbursts or mood swings. 



According to the BLS, Registered Nurses earn an average of $77,600 annually. Payscale reports around a $67,414 yearly income for psychiatric nurses in particular. Ultimately, salary for psychiatric nurses varies depending on your degree of education, years of experience, company size, and geographic location. You can also earn additional with night shifts, mentoring new nurses, or overtime compensation depending on your employer. Location plays an especially big role since nursing demand can vary based on location. Listed below are the highest paying RN states, as of 2021:

Highest Paying States for RN Salaries


  • California - $124,000

  • Hawaii - 106,530

  • Oregon - 98,630

  • District of Colombia - 98,540

  • Alaska - $97,230


Work Locations

Psych nurses can find work in a variety of settings

  • General Hospitals

  • Behavioral care companies

  • Community mental health centers

  • Hospitals specializing in psychiatry of substance abuse 

  • State and federal institutions

  • Rehabilitation centers

  • Educational institutions

  • Long term care centers/assisted living facilities

  • Military facilities

  • Primary care offices

  • Private practices

  • Specialty psychiatric or substance abuse hospitals


How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse


Step 1. Earn your nursing degree (ADN, diploma or BSN)

Step 2. Pass the NCLEX

Step 3. Gain Psychiatric nursing certifications

Step 4. Build your work experience



Per the BLS, nurses are expected to grow 9% between 2020 and 2030. This is around average, but nursing is expected to be in heavy demand for the coming years. An aging patient population and more awareness surrounding mental health is expected to raise the demand for psych nurses. The National Institute of Mental Health reported that around one in five Americans suffered some form of mental illness in 2019. As more people realize the value of counseling and psychological healthcare, psych nurses will steadily rise in prominence in the coming years.


Continuing Education

Continuing education requirements for all registered nurses will depend on your state. To keep your license active, contact your State Board of Nursing regarding the CEU requirements and deadlines.


Other Resources

You can learn more about psychiatric nursing online or through other psychiatric nurses. IF you do not know one personally, you can reach out to your state’s APNA chapter. Job fairs, student advisers or career counselors are another great avenue.

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