Behavioral health nurses specialize in promoting the mental health of their patients. Also known as psychiatric-mental health (PMH) nurses, they work in a wide variety of contexts and with individuals, families, groups, and communities.
"Psychiatric-mental health nurses form strong therapeutic relationships with people experiencing mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders, and often with their families as well." Other general responsibilities of behavioral health nurses include assessment, diagnosis, and the subsequent planning of care for mental health conditions. (APNA)
PMH-RNs can work in a variety of different settings:
While there are many different settings in which a behavioral health nurse can work, most PMH-NPs work in inpatient settings that have traditional working hours with some night shifts when they are on call.
While the role and responsibilities of a PMH-RN change depending on your workplace, responsibilities may include
PMH nurses work in many different contexts and serve varied roles - for this reason, PMH nursing requires nursing, psychosocial, neurobiological expertise. (APNA) Often times a PMH nurse will do similar things to a social worker, or psychiatrist with the job title of a nurse - PMH nurses can even prescribe medication! This comprehensive approach to nursing is a product of broader changes to our understanding of health and wellness. Mental health, mental trauma, and traumatic brain injuries have become central concerns of health care in recent decades, and the subsequent rise of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing aligns with these shifts. In that sense, behavioral health nursing is a recent advent. However, behavioral health nursing should not be looked at as being drastically different from other types of nursing, nor should it be understood as a drastic shift in the profession. All nurses know that prevention, early disease identification, and intervention influence positive results. These same core components are central to psychiatric mental health nursing - for example, consider early screening for depression and anxiety.
(Behavioral health: A Natural Nursing Fit, Robinson, Maryann E.)