Nursing Career Profile: Outpatient Psychiatric Nursing

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Where the jobs are:

Psych mental health nurses who specialize in outpatient care help provide nursing care to patients who need some treatment for their mental health condition but who do not need the kind of structure and supervision that an inpatient unit provides. Sometimes patients enter partial hospitalization programs after completing inpatient treatment and sometimes treatment in a day treatment program is provided to prevent an inpatient stay. Outpatient programs are available across the lifespan and some outpatient programs provide specialized treatment for eating disorders, substance abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, or self injury.

Job characteristics and specialized responsibilities:

Nurses who work in partial hospitalization programs may not be as involved in medication administration as nurses who work in inpatient facilities and so more of their time is spent in patient education and running patient groups. Nurses also monitor vital signs, and assess for side effects of medications. Nurses who work in partial hospitalization programs should have excellent mental health assessment skills in order to be quick to recognize signs of decompensation that may be a signal that a patient needs a more intensive treatment experience. Nurses must also be aware of community resources in order to provide clients with appropriate referrals for support in activities of daily living.

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