Nurses That Work in Behavioral Health are Trained in Mental Health Disorders

Get There with Advanced Degrees or Work Experience

Behavioral Health Nurses work within the mental health and psychiatric sector of healthcare, either in hospitals or other mental health institutions. This is a highly specialized aspect of nursing that requires either an advanced degree or measurable experience working with patients in the scope of a mental health practice.

Psychiatric nursing as a whole requires nursing staff possess a much different skill set than medical nurses. Mental health nurses have particular know-how when it comes to management of at-risk and underserved patient populations. Nurses work closely with patients and families to assess behavioral health issues, develop a care plan, and provide education that guides patients toward measurable mental health goals.

Counseling a Patient.

Degree Programs

Nurses interested in pursuing this aspect of the healthcare field may approach the specialty via a couple of different routes. Behavioral health nursing degree programs are designed to be a subspecialty of an Advanced Practice Nurse degree, particularly the Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). CNSs choose more layered sub-specialties when studying for their Master’s degree; Behavioral Health is one of them.

Within this field of study CNS candidates learn a curriculum heavy on counseling methods, psychopharmacology, and clinical work as it pertains to children, teens, adults, seniors, and families. Two-year degrees ensure nurses are competent to assess and carry out comprehensive patient intervention and care plans.

Where to Find Programs

Behavioral Health Nursing is typically offered as a CNS specialty in MSN programs. However, general mental health nursing degrees may be found at many traditional nursing programs and via online universities.

Behavioral Health Nursing Via Experience

Nurses without advanced degrees may navigate an avenue to Behavioral Health Nursing jobs. Two-year ADNs that choose to work within hospital psychiatry or mental health departments or standalone mental health institutions may earn their credentials with on-the-job experience. Experience matters considerably in nursing.

Work Environments

Because many mental health patients live on their own, Behavioral Health Nurses may even find jobs in visiting nurse programs. Professionals in these situations must have impeccable skills when it comes to patient assessment, intervention and case management. Family participation, health education, and medication advisement must all be coordinated parts of the whole.

Mental health environments are demanding and require nursing professionals with a particular compassion and genuine interest in the field. Nurses fill critical niches within healthcare and no less so within Behavioral Health where patient sensibilities may already be compromised.


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