Working with mentally ill patients is a very challenging, but very rewarding field within the healthcare industry. Because the field of mental health care is so challenging, there is a very high demand for workers in this area of medicine. Jobs are available for professionals with a wide range of experience and education, from entry level high school grads to advanced practice providers and physicians. Learn more about careers in the demanding, rewarding field of mental health care.
Nurses of all types are needed in mental health care. Vocational nurses, registered nurses, and advanced practice nurses all have opportunities in psychiatric care.
A psychiatrist is a physician (who has obtained an M.D. or D.O. degree) from an accredited medical school, and has completed a residency in psychiatry. Psychiatrists may have private practices, or be employed by hospitals or other agencies or institutions. Their practices may be primarily office based, or, if they are dealing with very ill patients, psychiatrists may treat patients in an inpatient setting. Psychiatrists may have a general practice or they can sub-specialize in addiction medicine, or child/adolescent psychiatry.
Forensic nurses typically help treat patients who have been a victim of a crime, or accident, or some other traumatic event. Forensic nurses have to help treat the mental anguish caused by the trauma or crime, but they are also specially trained to collect forensic evidence to use in solving the crime and prosecuting the criminals. Essentially, forensic nurses help bridge the gap between healthcare and law enforcement.
Social workers are case managers for people in need of a variety of services, but much of what they do involves caring for people who are under stress or who may be suffering from mental illness or other mental anguish.
A psychologist is similar to a psychiatrist in many ways but there are some key differences. The type of degree they hold is not exactly the same - only psychiatrists have completed medical school. However, psychologists do hold a doctoral level degree, just not from a medical school.
Like psychiatrists, psychologists may administer a variety of tests to help diagnose the patient. Psychologists may also use counseling or psychotherapy (talk therapy) to help treat the patient, as psychiatrists would, to help the patient develop coping skills and function normally. However, psychologists are not able to prescribe medications.