5 Ways Mental Health Nurses Care for Patients With Psychiatric Disorders

5 Ways Mental Health Nurses Care for Patients With Psychiatric Disorders

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Nurses in psychiatric hospitals and clinics across the world are often on the front lines of mental health care. Their contributions are rarely acknowledged, but they should be.

Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorders are often physiological in nature. They directly affect brain function, relationships, day-to-day functioning, and physical health. This makes it challenging for patients to reason, feel, think, or relate to others in a natural and predictable way.

Competent mental health nurses are aware of the symptoms and signs of mental disorders that patients may show. They keep these individuals safe and secure, while allowing them to express their thoughts and feelings without fear or hesitation.

5 Ways Mental Health Nurses Care for Patients With Psychiatric Disorders
5 Ways Mental Health Nurses Care for Patients With Psychiatric Disorders

Who Are Mental Health Nurses?

Mental health nursing, commonly referred to as psychiatric nursing, is a specialized field that involves the care of patients with mental illness to help them recover and increase their quality of life.

Mental health nurses have advanced training in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of psychiatric disorders. They often work with other health professionals in treatment teams designed to optimize patient outcomes.

Mental illness affects patients of all ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomic status. For this reason, mental health nurses will work with people from all types of backgrounds.

Mental health nurses are responsible for:

  • Assessment and evaluation of a patient’s physical and mental health
  • Development of a treatment plan
  • Consultation with other health professionals
  • Providing referrals for psychotherapy
  • Maintaining medical records
  • Education and support to the patients and their family

5 Ways Mental Health Nurses Care For Patients

Nurses support patients by building good relationships with them, encouraging healthy behaviors, and monitoring their symptoms. Here are five specific ways nurses provide mental health care.

1. Primary Care and Hospitals

Patients often visit clinics and hospitals for reasons seemingly unrelated to mental health. For example, they may have been involved in a traffic accident or some other type of traumatic incident.

Victims in these situations are often in shock. They may be frantic or numb. Regardless, if their trauma is not treated, they risk developing PTSD or other forms of mental illness associated with trauma, such as panic disorder or depression.

In such cases, nurses with psychiatric training are in an excellent position to assess the situation and offer support.

Nurses have more freedom to socialize directly with patients than doctors. They can listen to patients’ concerns and offer advice. In severe cases, nurses can refer their patients to psychiatrists for medication management or to therapists for counseling.

Most positions require a two-year nursing degree, but the higher the degree, the more options you have as a nurse. If you are a nurse and haven’t already received specialized training, now may be the right time to investigate your options. 

For example, you can visit this page to see where you can get a doctorate in nursing. The DNP is a terminal degree for advanced-practice nurses to expand their careers and knowledge. It also helps nurses obtain a leadership role in healthcare settings.

2. Developing Treatment Plans

Most patients can manage their mental health with effective treatment. Recovery from mental illness is possible, but professional help is often necessary. 

Mental health nurses can help patients by developing effective treatment plans for them. Usually, a treatment plan is the result of collaboration between doctors, social workers, and other trained clinicians, but nurses are often the point-person when it comes to working directly with the patient.

Mental health treatment is effective, but patients rarely know what their options are. A well-informed nurse is critical in helping patients understand what services exist and how to access them.

3. Bonding with Family Members

Family and friends often play a critical role in a patient’s recovery. In hospitals and clinics, nurses are often their main point of contact. It is therefore critical for nurses to cultivate positive relationships with them to aid the patient’s recovery. 

Communicating with the patients and their family members is essential, as familial support is an excellent indicator of long-term success. Family members are also a crucial source of information about a patient’s condition, behavior, and symptoms. 

Nurse/Client Relationship, Therapeutic Communication – Mental Health Nurses. Courtesy, YouTube.

4. Connecting With Patients

Nurses spend most of their time with patients, providing both medical care and social interaction. They keep an eye on their patient’s physical and mental health. They assess their patient’s requirements and communication abilities. 

Nurses can help distract patients from negative thinking with vibrant conversation, chitchat, and good humor. According to Health Conscious, a positive outlook can help patients with acute and chronic pain heal their minds and bodies.

5. Screening for Symptoms and Signs

There are dozens of symptoms associated with mental illness. Some are obvious. Some are not. Sometimes patients are aware of their mental illness. Sometimes they are in denial. Patients who suffer from psychotic disorders, for example, often cannot recognize that they are ill.

As nurses provide direct care to patients, they are in an excellent position to screen for the signs and symptoms of mental illness. A well-trained nurse is always on the lookout for:

  • Affect issues. For example, if a patient presents as blunt or labile.
  • Mood issues. For example, manic process or depression.
  • Addiction. For example, drug-seeking behaviors or signs of withdrawal.
  • Thought Disorders. For example, delusional thinking or paranoia.
  • Anxiety. For example, excessive worrying or panic.
  • Trauma. For example, hypervigilance or avoidance.

Doctors and clinicians often rely on nurses for information about patients, for the simple reason that nurses spend more time with them and are thus better able to observe and report symptoms of mental illness.

Final Thoughts

Mental health nurses have a pivotal impact on the psychological and physical health of their patients. With compassion and training, nurses can increase the chances of successful treatment outcomes. 

It’s important to remember that mental health is just as important as physical health. Nurses who have the proper training are in an excellent position to treat both. By providing assessment, education, and support, they can help patients achieve their treatment goals in a more efficient and effective manner.

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About The Author
Randy Withers, LCMHC
Randy Withers, LCMHC is a Board-Certified and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor at a private practice in North Carolina where he specializes in co-occurring disorders. He has masters degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Lenoir-Rhyne University and Education from Florida State University, and is the managing editor of Blunt Therapy. He writes about mental health, therapy, and addictions. In his spare time, you can find him watching reruns of Star Trek: TNG with his dog. Connect with him on LinkedIn. You can also see what he writes about on Medium.
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