Travel Nursing: Psychiatry

by Lindsay Wilcox

Nurse treating girl with depressionThe Affordable Care Act has made it possible for those struggling with mental health disorders to receive quality, affordable care — which means that nurses in this specialty are more in demand than ever before. Find out what it takes to become a psychiatry nurse.


Psychiatry nurses work with patients suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia and other mental health disorders. They develop care plans, offer counseling, help patients learn to take care of themselves, manage a therapeutic environment and administer medication.

Psychiatry nurses are also responsible for assessing patients’ needs, maintaining medical records, consulting with doctors for patient care and connecting patients and families with resources that can help.

Nurses in this specialty work in hospitals, long-term care centers, mental health agencies and outpatient facilities. An important aspect of their work is behavioral therapy, which includes teaching patients and their families about dealing with the challenges that accompany mental health disorders.

It’s important for nurses who specialize in psychiatry to be particularly in tune with patients’ moods, emotions and changes in daily habits and to be empathetic as well. Good listening and communication skills are a must for this career.


To become a psychiatry nurse, you need to earn an accredited nursing degree (generally a bachelor’s in nursing) and pass the NCLEX. While certification isn’t necessary, many nurses interested in working in psychiatry long-term decide to become certified psychiatric-mental health nurses (PMHNs) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Requirements for certification include two years of experience working as a full-time nurse, 30 hours of continuing education in PMHN and a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in psychiatric nursing in the past three years. Those who earn their master’s degrees in nursing can subspecialize in other areas of psychiatric nursing, such as substance abuse or child-adolescent mental health.

Note: Basic life support (BLS) and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification, plus at least one year of clinical work experience, is required for all nurses that RNnetwork places.

Are you interested in a travel nursing career? Check out our open travel psychiatry nursing jobs, and visit the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) website for more details about this specialty.

About Lindsay Wilcox

Lindsay Wilcox is a healthcare writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional writing experience. When she's not circling typos, she's enjoying fish tacos and hanging out with her family.

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