Job Title: Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurse
Type of Company: I work for a large non-profit organization that provides mental health services for children and adults.
Education: BA, Sociology, UMass-Boston AD, Nursing, Northern Essex Community College (Haverhill, MA) MS, Nursing, Northeastern University
Previous Experience: I started working at a special education school immediately after graduating from nursing school. I also worked on an adolescent floor where patients were acutely ill and needed 24 hour care. After receiving my Masters degree in Nursing I was the Director of Health Services for a large child welfare agency. Currently I prescribe medications for children and adolescents with mental illness.
Job Tasks: My primary responsibilities in my current position are to assess and diagnose mental health issues and to prescribe medication to help treat the symptoms of those afflictions. I provide consultation and education to clinicians, schools, community groups and parent groups to educate others on mental health issues in children and adolescents.
I meet with children and families or caregivers to get background and developmental information. I consult with schools and pediatricians to understand how the child is developing all across the board. After I've gathered as much information as I can, I write an evaluation and make a diagnosis. I then prescribe medication in combination with individual psychotherapy or play therapy, family therapy, behavior modification and psycho-education about diagnoses and medications.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part about being an advanced practice nurse is the privilege of working with children and families to allow them to live the happiest, healthiest lives they can. The difficulty is that many children have been traumatized and the reality of what children go through can be difficult.
The best benefit to being a nurse, advanced practice, psychiatric or other wise is that there is always a demand for them. There is an enormous amount of flexibility.
Job Tips: I would recommend that you work in a medical setting for a year so that you have a solid base to begin with. If you decide to become an psychiatric nurse, working in an in-patient unit or at a residence or school will give you the best experience if you are interested in prescribing medication.
Additional Thoughts: Nursing is a career that is challenging and flexible. You are able to work as little or as much as you would like and nursing tends to be recession-proof. There is also flexibility. There are so many specialties that you can always learn new skills and change paths if you decide you want to try something new. Practicing at the advanced level in child/adolescent mental health also provides you with the option of working independently in a private practice. The possibilities with a career in nursing are endless.
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