Everyone loves a road trip, but some people hate to plan them. Others have a good eye for details and thinking about how all the little pieces come together to form the big picture. These nursing specialties are similar. To thrive in them, you have to be able to see and understand your patient’s needs, not only physically, but mentally, too.
Psychiatric and Behavioral Health
Psychiatric and behavioral health nurses work with patients who have mental health issues and significant psychiatric disorders. This specialty is best suited for nurses who can meet the intellectual demands of analyzing and shaping challenging behavior.
- Psychiatric nurses care for patients with a wide range of diagnoses, including anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychotic disorders.
- The pace depends on the facility.
- In-patient units and crisis centers are generally more intense than residential facilities, clinics, or community-based centers.
- RN licensure is required to work in a number of roles in mental health nursing.
- Psychiatric nurses should have good communication skills, be able to set boundaries while establishing trust with patients, and have a positive attitude about mental illness and behavioral health problems.
- Advanced degrees in psychiatric nursing are available for those who wish to advance in this specialty.
Final Destination vs. Pit Stop:
- Psychiatric nursing can be a final destination or a pit stop, depending on the nurse.
- Within psychiatric nursing, there are many types of facilities to work in and advanced degrees to pursue.
Substance abuse nurses specialize in treating patients with drug and alcohol addiction. They are skilled in treating underlying medical problems and psychiatric nursing to support their patients’ mental health as they deal with their addictions.
- Patients are at various stages of sobriety. Some are just detoxing while others are working to stay sober.
- A big part of the substance abuse nurse’s responsibility is to provide support and education to the patient’s family.
- Pace depends on the facility.
- Substance abuse nurses work in many places, including inpatient and outpatient drug rehab facilities, sober living homes, psychiatric hospitals, jails, methadone clinics, and doctor’s offices.
- Inpatient facilities are usually a little more hectic as patients are at the beginning of their recovery.
- A diploma or BSN is needed to practice as a substance abuse nurse, and a genuine interest and passion for helping this patient population are key.
- Certification as a substance abuse nurse can be pursued after gaining experience in the field.
Final Destination vs. Pit Stop
- Again, this can be either a final destination or a pit stop. Some nurses feel called to do this type of work and truly love working in this specialty. Others may move on to another area of psychiatric nursing.
Nurses who work in pain management specialize in the care of patients with chronic pain. They are experts not only on pain medications but also non-pharmacological interventions to help bring relief.
- Patients experience chronic and even debilitating pain from conditions like fibromyalgia, diabetic nerve pain, chronic headaches, stroke, motor vehicle accidents, cancer, and degenerative disc disease.
- Pain management can be intense because some patients are really suffering, but the pace varies depending on the facility.
- Hospitals and oncology centers can be a little more intense, while outpatient clinics, rehab facilities, and sports medicine offices may be a bit slower.
- Nurses with a diploma or BSN can work in pain management, receiving additional training at the facility where they get hired.
- Good assessment skills are essential as the nurse has to be able to pick up on non-verbal cues from their patients.
- ACLS may be required if invasive pain management procedures are performed at the facility.
- A pain management certification is available to nurses with 2,000 hours of experience and continuing education credits in the field.
Final Destination vs. Pit Stop
- This can be a final destination or a pit stop. Some nurses enjoy this type of work, but it is also a good starting point for a nurse interested in working in substance abuse
How to Make Psych, Substance Abuse, or Pain Management Your Next Destination?
To reach the next step in your nursing career, you need a map to get you from where you are now to the specialty you aim to be. Knowing what the specialty is and the experience you need for a new specialty is only 2 of 6 steps to make that transition a reality.
For the other 4 steps needed to change nursing specialties:
Find Your Road Map: 6 Essential Steps to Change Nursing Specialty