The Scoop on Psychiatric Aides

Even though Psychiatric Care sounds like something that only happens on a therapist's couch, it is routinely provided at mental health facilities and specialized wards in other facilities.

The team of Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Mental Health Technicians and Psychiatric Aides all contribute to treatment, but the patients spend most of their time with the Psychiatric Aide. With the public demand for greater accountability in mental health care, staffing has been increased at all levels, including Psychiatric Aides. That means that this field will grow with the population over the next 10 years.

What in the World Does a Psychiatric Aide Do?

Psychiatric Aides have more one-on-one contact with patients than anybody, regardless of the setting. Psychiatric Aides are the people in a mental care facility who help patients with daily activities of personal care, like washing up, dressing, and eating, as well as joining them in all the recreational activities of the day. This job will be physically challenging as well as emotionally challenging.

If you're doing this job, you might play cards with the patients, watch TV with them, do puzzles with them, talk with them, get to know them, and be a good listener when they need one. Patients who are receiving psychiatric care, many times, will feel like they can't trust anyone, and you might be the person they feel that they can trust.

Aside from being a contact point for the patients, you would also be charged with keeping a check on their vital signs, behavior and eating habits. You would report these factors to the nurses and doctors in the facility so that the patients get the best care possible. Your hours can suit your needs, part time or full time, day or night, and/or weekends.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

No formal training program is required for Psychiatric Aides. In many cases, you do not even have to have a High School Diploma to work in this field. However, the Federal Government requires a competency test for those who work in "aiding" positions. Outside of the Government test, some agencies offer training and competency programs for nursing aides. Health tests and background tests may be part of the application process. Although Psychiatric Aides are NOT Nursing Aides, you might want to get training as a Nursing Aide so that you look more attractive to potential employers.

Most of your training is done on the job under the direction of a nurse or doctor. Typically, this sort of training is to get you acclimated to how the facility is run so that you can fit in and do the best job possible. If you are empathetic to the patients, keep in mind their specific needs and want to help them, your training will go well.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

Generally, Psychiatric Aides only work in mental health facilities, mental hospitals, and psychiatric wards. These are easy jobs to locate by opening the phone book and finding all the mental facilities in your area.

You may also want to go to local Psychiatric practices since independent Psychiatrists may need Aides to work with certain patients. In this situation, you might be working simultaneously as a Home Health Aide and a Psychiatric Aide.

Because the field is so specialized, you will need to be very focused in your job search. There are only so many Mental Health Care Facilities to go around. This could make competition for jobs very steep. On the other hand, this is a demanding job that can create high turnover if the person hired is not suited for the work.

Advancement usually means that you are training in another medical field while working as a Psychiatric Aide. If you didn't want to get into more schooling, you might, with experience, get into management or supervision of other Aides in a Mental Health Facility or Hospital. You might be "Director of Nursing Aides" at a Hospital where you are handling every aide in the hospital, and not just the Psychiatric Aides. Either way, you won't have to play cards with a paranoid schizophrenic (who thinks you're cheating) your whole career.

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Psychiatric Aides Overview

Psychiatric Aide Salary:$26,560
Job Prospects:A+
Education after high school:1 years
# Employed in US:59,050
% Who work Part Time:24%
Physical Difficulty:+ + + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + + +

The Pros of being a Psychiatric Aide

  • No formal training is required
  • You may only have to pass a government competency test
  • You can work all kinds of hours to fit your life and work together

The Cons of being a Psychiatric Aide

  • This is an entry-level position
  • You will spend a lot of time working one-on-one with patients
  • You may feel uncomfortable being "known" to a bunch of mental patients