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Mental Health Nurse Program Information

Psychiatric, or mental health nurses, provide support and care for mentally ill patients or those struggling psychologically.  These nurses may be providing very basic mental health care (often in an assisting role to a physician), or may be advanced nursing practitioners providing full care to their patients or working with a consulting physician.  Mental health nurses may work in hospitals, physician's offices, veteran's hospitals, or mental health facilities.  Advanced mental health nurses may work as psychotherapists, consultants, or university educators.  They often provide psychotherapy and can also prescribe medications.

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Mental Health Nurse Qualifications, Training, and Education

To become a basic psychiatric nurse, you'll first need to become a registered nurse (RN).  There are several paths to becoming an RN.  Some nurses will get a bachelor of science in Nursing (BSN) degree at an accredited four-year college or university.  Others will pursue an associates degree in nursing at a junior or community college.  Still others will get a registered nursing diploma through a vocational or technical school, but diploma programs are less common.  After completing the level of education you choose at an approved nursing program, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed.   To become an advanced practice mental health nurse, you will then need to go on to pursue a master's or doctorate degree in nursing while specializing in the mental health field.  Both degrees will require extensive hands-on clinical hours.

Mental Health Nurse Job Outlook and Opportunity

All areas of nursing continue to grow.  However, advanced practice nurses are in particularly strong demand and command a higher pay grade.  According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a registered nurse was $62,450.  Those with more education or certification will stand to make more.  The top 10% were making over $92,000 annually.  As an advanced practice mental health nurse, one would be earning closer to the top 10%.

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