Mental health and well-being resources for healthcare professionals

An Introduction to Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing

Psychiatric-mental health nursing

Nursing theory and mental health  

Mental health is a critical aspect of overall wellness. Holistic nursing, of which psychiatric-mental health nursing (PMHN) can be a part, focuses on the whole person. It addresses the interconnectedness of the mind, body, spirit, social/cultural emotions, and environment (Petiprin, 2023).  

Jean Watson’s conceptual model, Philosophy, and Science of Caring, provides a foundation for psychiatric-mental health nursing in clinical practice. The philosophy has four major concepts: human beings, health, environment/society, and nursing, where the human is viewed as greater than the sum of their parts (Petiprin, 2023). This model concerns health promotion, prevention, care for the sick, and restoration of health.  

Recommended course: Basic Psychiatric Concepts

The theory makes certain assumptions, including: 

  • Caring is effectively practiced only through interpersonal communication 
  • Caring consists of factors that result in the satisfaction of human needs 
  • Effective caring promotes health and individual or family growth 
  • Caring responses accept the individual now and in the future 
  • Caring environments offer potential development opportunities while allowing individual choice 
  • A science of caring is complementary to the science of curing 
  • Caring is central to nursing 

All nurses, including PMHNs, use these assumptions when caring for individuals with mental health disorders.    

Becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse 

Mental health nursing is one of the most important disciplines in nursing. PMHNs care for individuals (adults and children) with emotional and mental health concerns. This can include anxiety, depression, substance abuse, mood disorders, and schizophrenia, among other conditions.  

PMHNs are employed in inpatient and outpatient settings. They can also conduct assessments in homes and long-term residential care centers.  

Becoming a mental health nurse begins by earning a nursing degree and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN). Nurses must maintain a license to practice as an RN. Specific license requirements vary by state.  

The psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) requires a minimum of a master’s degree. This requires an additional 2 years beyond a bachelor’s degree and certification to practice.  

The requirement for this additional education is also state specific.  

Qualities of a psychiatric mental health nurse 

Any nurse considering employment in mental health should possess these qualities: 

  • Critical thinking 
  • Caring and compassion  
  • Interest in mental health 
  • Reliability 

Mental health nurses receive the same training as their nursing colleagues. However, that should also have an in-depth knowledge of mental health disorders and crisis interventions.  

The field of mental healthcare can be very stressful, sometimes hazardous. The RN in this setting utilizes the nursing process to assess and identify risks and develops plans of care with the psychiatrist, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and other disciplines.   

RNs are responsible for the therapeutic milieu (environment). They can lead certain therapeutic groups, distribute medication, and provide crisis intervention and education to patients and families.  

Recommended course: Caring for Patients with Mental Health Issues, 3rd Edition

Care and cultural competence 

Effective communication facilitates effective care. When communicating with patients, especially in PMHN, nurses must practice cultural competence.   

Culture is the sum of integrated behavioral patterns, norms, and traditions among members of certain groups. Cultural competence defines the ability to interact effectively with members of different cultures (Deering, 2022). Understanding a patient’s cultural norms allows a nurse working in PMHN to develop a deeper understanding of that patient, their history, expectations, and values. 

Future of mental healthcare 

In the wake of COVID-19, mental health is on everyone’s minds, both within and outside of the healthcare professions. Shifting societal norms, combined with the collective trauma of the pandemic, have altered the face of mental health care, and will continue to shape it for years to come.