The Scoop on Psychiatric Technicians

Psychiatric Technicians are an integral part of the mental health community.

Most people imagine a Psychiatrist sitting in a dimly lit office and discussing patient's problems while the patient lays on a comfy couch, but there is a lot more to Mental Health Care than the couch. Psychiatrists who work in Mental Health Facilities need more than an office staff to help with clerical duties; they also need Psychiatric Technicians to assist them in treating and aiding patients.

What in the World Does a Psychiatric Technician Do?

Psychiatric Technicians are the backbone of Mental Health facilities. If you were working as a Psychiatric Technician, you would be responsible for aiding patients and caring for their daily needs. In addition to helping patients around the hospital, you would also be charged with making sure they eat, bathe, take their medications and keep their behavior under control.

This sort of job requires you to be "in touch" with the patients as much as possible so that you can learn what makes them tick and how to take care of them. In cases where patients are not able to care for themselves, you would also be responsible for feeding, bathing, and clothing them. This typically depends on the caseload that you get, as every hospital and every patient is different.

In addition to helping the patients, you would also have to report to the medical staff of the hospital about the conditions of all the patients you are caring for. This means that you will have to do a fair amount of record-keeping to write useful reports for the medical staff to provide the best patient care possible.

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

Typically, the schooling for Psychiatric Technicians is either non-existent or very limited, depending on which state you live in. If schooling is required in your State, you should enroll in a Psychiatric Technician Training Program at a vocational school, hospital, or community college. These programs usually last 1 year, and they teach you everything you need to know about being a Psychiatric Technician.

After you complete the training program, you receive a Certificate of Completion (not a Diploma or Degree) that is usually enough to get a job. Some employers offer on the job training in States where the training programs or licenses are not required. This is the kind of opportunity where you can get your foot in the medical community's door and work your way up. If your state requires a license, you will have to pass a written exam and a skills test first, and then you will be able to start working as a Psychiatric Tech.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

54,800 people held this type of job in 2006. Since the population is growing and more insurance companies are paying for mental health care, the opportunities for Psychiatric Techs will increase.

If you did not work a mental health clinic or hospital, you might also work in a Psychiatrist's office or in a larger practice where you could assist the Doctors with their patients who are not institutionalized.

You could also work for a government agency that offered mental health care, and you could assist the Directors in that department or travel around to different institutions assisting all sorts of Doctors and medical personnel in the aid of patients. This would allow you to get out and about and do your job.

Advancement from Psychiatric Technology usually means becoming a Psychiatrist yourself (and this is a good job to have while you are in Medical School). Or, you might become Supervisor of Psychiatric Technicians or get into management on some level. Either way, you won't have to walk the halls of a mental hospital your whole life if you don't want to.

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Psychiatric Technicians Overview

Psychiatric Technician Salary:$29,250
Job Prospects:A-
Education after high school:1 years
# Employed in US:54,800
% Who work Part Time:23%
Physical Difficulty:+ + + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ + +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + + +

The Pros of being a Psychiatric Technician

  • The training is nominal (or non-existent)
  • Some jobs train "on the job"
  • You can work in places other than mental hospitals
  • You can advance into management or learn the trade and go to medical school

The Cons of being a Psychiatric Technician

  • You spend a lot of time on your feet
  • Working a mental institution or clinic might be unnerving for some people
  • Helping patients eat, bathe, and dress might not be comfortable for some people