Why would you want to be a psychiatric nurse?

by Lindy Bellnoski, BSN, RN on August 19, 2011 · 9 comments

in psychiatric nursing,Uncategorized

“What exactly will you do?” This was the question. It was fair. I’ll admit it: Even I didn’t know the answer in its entirety.

After accepting a psychiatric nurse resident position at The Menninger Clinic, everyone asked me this very question. And while those who inquired seemed eager to find out, I couldn’t help but notice the curious cynicism in which the question was asked. People seemed slightly surprised, a bit negative and kind of concerned, as if to say, “Why would you want to do that?”

Perhaps this speaks to the critical eye with which most of our culture views psychiatric illness. It is sad, unfortunate and undeserved. It has been my experience that stereotypes, labeling and judgments of all kinds often result from a lack of accurate information and even worse, false information. Healthcare, as a whole, has neglected to examine mental health to the degree that physical health has been attended to. The general public’s knowledge is lacking in the department of mental health, leaving most of society a bit nearsighted, if you will. I’ll almost guarantee you that the person next to you at the post office is blind to the fact that suicide ranks third among the leading causes of death for adolescents and young adults.

It is my hope that society will one day stand with its vision corrected and bring mental healthcare to the forefront in full focus. Until then, I am grateful to work for an organization whose daily mission is to be a world leader in psychiatric care, research and education. We are working together to magnify the need for and importance of psychiatric and mental healthcare.

Through which lens do you view mental healthcare? Is it one of distorted scrutiny? Or, is it one of clear precision? Are your lenses in need of adjustment? Perhaps it’s time to put on your glasses.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Avani K. Thakkar RN August 31, 2011 at 9:24 am

I really liked the post by Lindy. I am glad that I have worked with a bright young nurse like her. I agree with that it is a stigma for pursuing psychiatry nursing. In fact, I think this is still a world wide issue. I always tell nursing students and others that as a psych nurse I feel special. It is not easy to treat a wound but it is definitely hard to treat a soul. I am glad that I am Menninger and proud to be one.

Reynaldo Driscoll, RN August 30, 2011 at 4:37 am

Thank you for a great post. This reminds me of why I chose to go into Mental Health Nursing 28 years ago.

Elise Flores, RN August 28, 2011 at 10:09 pm

I couldn’t agree more. Look @ the impact our mental health has on all aspects of our lives. I’ve never regretted my decision to work in the field of psychiatric nursing 12 years ago. When I did an internship in the Harris County Jail, it was then I realized just how truly remarkable it is how many criminals have a mental illness. Maybe we will one day stop the revolving door epidemic, and have accesible, affordable, mental health care for all.

Roberta Anding, RD August 24, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Great post Lindy. I have worked in adolescent medicine for the past 12 years and it is actually tragic to see how many people would rather have a serious medical diagnosis than one involving mental health. Advocacy for adolescents who need a holistic approach to health care makes my job a true blessing. Thanks for your passion!

Rhonda Williams, RN BSN August 23, 2011 at 10:04 am

It is my hope that mental illness will someday get the respect and support along with other physcial illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, etc… When I tell family and friends that I’m a psychatric nurse they shy away from asking too many questions. It’s like no one wants to talk about it. I take it upon myself to educate my small circle of friends and family to bring awareness to what “our children”, “teens”, and adult peers are struggling with. Seriously, so many are ignorant to what mental illness entails and get caught up in the negative stereotypes; and thus limiting themselves to treatment. I am proud to be a psychatric nurse, and my vision is definately 20/20. Thanks for this insightful post!

Debbie Cox, RN August 22, 2011 at 6:54 pm

I enjoyed this post so much! So many of the nurses I speak with can’t understand why I work in mental health and have actually asked if I do it by choice! Indeed, why would you NOT want to work in mental health? Many nurses don’t feel like they aren’t a nurse if they can’t come to work and start an IV or suction a trach. Come on, anybody can do that! I feel like I’ve done my job if just one patient can tell me they trust me or tell me that nobody has ever taken the time to really TALK to them. They are just in much need of care (probably more) than the “sick” people in the hospital.

Cheryl Buteaux, RN August 22, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Excellent post Lindy. It is quite shameful that our society so underserves the public with funds devoted to mental health and that government does not mandate the insurance companies to provide good mental health coverage. We know clearly that this is a vital part of overall health and that mental health can be just as debilitating as those suffering from physical ailments. As yo mentioned, statistics show that suicide is ranked 3rd as a cause of death for young people. In the end, the numbers should reflect that it is more costly to our community to imprison those that have not been treated for their mental illness and have committed crimes within the community than to assist them beforehand with good psychiatric care. I am not even mentioning the cost, both emotionally and financially to the victims of crimes who themselves may require mental health services. I appreciate the thoughtful way you have presented the stigma related to being a psychiatric nurse and look forward to a shared vision that will improve this imbalance.

Pam Greene PhD,RN August 22, 2011 at 10:41 am

With bright, insightful nurses like Lindy as part of the interdisciplinary healthcare team, we will be able to work together and eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness. Thanks for your post!

Jennifer M. Jackson, RN August 20, 2011 at 10:33 am

Lindy’s vision is 20/20. Thank you for reminding us why we do what we do. The question is, “Why would you NOT want to be a psychiatric-mental health nurse?” We at Menninger are so pleased to have you with us.

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