Psychiatric Nurse: In-Demand Specialty for Travel Nursing Jobs

July 20, 2021

Psychiatric nurses work with patients who have been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders or who have demonstrated the potential for psychiatric disorders. The unique environment in which they serve means psychiatric nurses must be independent and self-confident as well as patient and kind. They must be strong enough to provide support in the midst of unexpected and unpredictable patient responses.

As mental illness becomes less stigmatized and society grows increasingly vested in mental health support, demand for psychiatric nurses will continue to grow. This is particularly true in light of the national nursing shortage which impacts all nursing specialty areas. Further, as psychiatric patient loads have increased the number of trained and licensed psychiatrists has decreased, leading to a need for psychiatric nurses to fill the gap. This demand will make travel psychiatric nurse skills valuable to a wide range of facilities around the country and expand the opportunities available to them.

RN’s can earn up to $2,300 per week as a travel nurse. Speak to a recruiter today!

What is a Psychiatric Nurse?

Psychiatric nurses evaluate and assess patients who show the potential for or have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. They work as part of a collaborative team that includes psychiatrists, physicians in other specialty areas and other mental health specialists. In this role, they assist with diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of patients; prove basic nursing care like helping patients to dress, groom and take their medications; follow treatment plans; and teach patients how to deal with the challenges they are facing. They work with patients who have anxiety disorders; post-traumatic stress; mood disorders; eating disorders; issues with substance abuse; and patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Psychiatric nurses can work in inpatient, outpatient and residential treatment centers. Their work environments can include hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, home healthcare companies, prisons, the courts, outpatient mental health organizations, schools and private practices. Some of these environments require they work 12-hour shifts while others allow for 8-hour shifts.

No matter their professional environment, psychiatric nurses work with patients facing complex emotions and challenges. They must be good communicators and good listeners, and be empathetic and open while remaining strong. To protect themselves from becoming overly involved in what is happening with their patients, self-care is particularly important.

One way these professionals can achieve balance is through the change of scenery and new challenges that come from being a psychiatric travel nurse.

Psychiatric Nurse Salary and Job Growth Potential

According to, the average annual salary for a psychiatric nurse is $109,915.

There are many variables that can impact compensation, including the years of experience and the type of facility in which they work.

Different regions tend to offer different levels of pay, and psychiatric nurses can increase their earnings beyond their base salary through profit sharing, working overtime and on-call hours, and signing on for shift differentials.

The average annual salary for a psychiatric nurse is $109,915.

Psychiatric nurses are highly valued by the organizations for which they work, and the national nursing shortage combined with the increased recognition of the need for mental health care has resulted in a surge in demand for their services.

As a result, many facilities across the country are recruiting for psychiatric nurse professionals, and have turned to travel psychiatric nurses to help them bridge the gap and provide much-needed relief to full-time staff.

Top Paying Cities for Psychiatric Nurses in 2021

According to, here are the best paying cities for case management nurses in 2021:

  1. Washington, DC: $156,071 per year
  2. Philadephia, PA: $119,83 per year
  3. Austin, TX: $99,013 per year
  4. Houston, TX: $97,191 per year
  5. Phoenix, AZ: $96,945 per year

Click here to find psychiatric travel nurse assignments available today!

Psychiatric Nurse Education Requirements, Certifications and Professional Groups

An aspiring psychiatric nurse begins by earning either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), then passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and getting licensed. A Registered Nurse can then apply for positions working with psychiatric patients, and eventually pursue a psychiatric-mental health certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). To qualify, nurses must have two years of experience as a full-time Registered Nurse and at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in the field of mental health or psychiatric nursing within the previous three years. They also must complete 30 or more hours of continuing education during that time period. The certification, once earned, gives the nurse a 5-year designation as a Registered Nurse-Board Certified.

There are additional specialty certifications psychiatric nurses can pursue, including ones focused on pediatric, adolescent or geriatric populations. Psychiatric nurses can also pursue advanced practice nurse degrees such as Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner or can become Psychiatric Mental-Health Clinical Nurse Specialists. Nurses interested in becoming part of the largest professional membership organization for psychiatric mental health nurses can join the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, which is dedicated to empowering established, emerging and prospective psychiatric nurses.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Psychiatric Nurse

Pros of Psychiatric Nursing

  • Ability to offer immediate help and support to patients who are suffering from severe distress
  • Rewarding to use interpersonal skills to provide treatment
  • Direct patient care

Cons of Psychiatric Nursing

  • Work can be emotionally and physically draining
  • Patients can be unpredictable and there can be a risk of aggressive behavior
  • Progress is slow, which means this is not a good fit for nurses who prefer immediate gratification

Nursing as a Psychiatric Travel Nurse

Psychiatric nurses possess a deep understanding of mental health which translates easily to different work environments and patient communities. As a result, they are excellent candidates for travel nursing positions.

Psychiatric travel nurses have the advantage of being able to choose new and exciting locales in which they’d like to work while quickly and easily fitting into a new work environment. Their excellent interpersonal skills and communication abilities, as well as the growing need for the care they provide, means that they are welcomed by the staff in each new facility.

They also will enjoy higher salaries and the competitive benefits that accompany these positions, including tax-free per diems for food and lodging.

RN’s can earn up to $2,300 per week as a travel nurse. Speak to a recruiter today!

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