Hey, I’m Back! Let’s Talk

I want to know from you what reasons led you to choose psychiatric-mental health nursing (PMHN) as a specialty?

  • Did you ‘burn-out’ in another specialty?
  • Was another nurse in your life in PMHN?
  • Do/did you have a mentally-ill relative or loved one whose life affected you to want to learn more?
  • Do you like talking more than taking physical care of patients?
  • Do you like finding out what people are thinking about and why?
  • Did you need a different challenge?
  • Was it another reason I haven’t listed or a combination of some of these?
Read on and check out why I switched.
After 5 years in Critical Care at a local community hospital, I was well past the ‘burn-out’ stage. I was floundering in my work, I was crying many evenings when I went home from the unbelievable stress of the job. I was really torn about leaving, but I knew I had to. I relished the level of knowledge that we RNs had to have in this specialty in order to give quality care. I enjoyed learning the new technology and precepting new nurses. I had risen as high as I could at that time in that area and I wasn’t going to return to school for my Master’s, because the current thinking was that it wasn’t going to be recognized (i.e., merit a raise and/or promotion), so I didn’t pursue it.
I was also preparing to marry and the release of stress my fiance witnessed made him beg me to change jobs. I had transferred patients with Axis III diagnoses/co-morbidities from the Critical Care Area (CCA) to our psych unit several times over the years and after my initial anxieties about going onto the unit–yes, a very scary proposition for most of the uninitiated–I realized I enjoyed the atmosphere. I also realized a couple of times when I had an ‘easy’ assignment–2-3 patients with Mild MIs (Myocardial Infarctions), that I realized talking to them about their lives and how calming (for me and maybe for them, too) it was.
We were in the midst of a staffing shortage–that’s been around FOR-E-VER–and my head nurse said that it wasn’t going to change. I was carrying three patients on a regular basis with multiple drips and at least two of them had ventilators. The multiple q 15min vital signs and drip calculations and lab drawing and CSF pressure reads, EKG interpretations, etc., just got to be too much for me. This was in the early-to-mid ’80’s and all of these tasks were performed manually. A few of the functions were ‘automated’, but not many and it wore me out, made me feel guilty and depressed because I couldn’t keep up. So I left. I called the psych unit’s head nurse and applied for the opening they had. She was a former critical care nurse, too, so I knew she knew how I felt. She hired me! The next day, I told my head nurse that I was leaving in two weeks. My colleagues called me crazy for making this move. They didn’t understand why I wanted to do this and said that only crazy people worked there. I persevered cause I had to get out of there!!
I started on 8E, the week before I got married! That was 25 years ago. Though being in PMHN hasn’t been the total bed of roses or the greener grass that I thought it would be, changing specialties did save my sanity. I am forever grateful to Margaret Bynum, RN, BSN, my CCA head nurse for taking a chance on me 30 years ago and for molding me, promoting and supporting me through the years. She was a great nurse and leader role model for me, as well. I hope I was a good employee for her!
Text Copyright 2010 Sylvia Ratliff-Trappio/AskaPsychNurse.net