Kierra Arthur, Psychiatric Nurse

Rx For Success: How Psychiatric Nurse Kierra Arthur Brightens Her Patients’ Lives Every Day

In Vivian Health’s ongoing Rx for Success series, we profile a healthcare provider from our platform each week, highlighting critical career moments fueling their renewed passion for healthcare.

Vivian Health recently caught up with psychiatric-mental health (PMH) registered nurse (RN) Kierra Arthur to discuss her career in psychiatric nursing and learn what inspires her in a role that combines more typical elements of patient care with mental health services.

Arthur appeared to be headed toward a mental-health-related career early on in her studies. As she posted on her LinkedIn profile, she earned her BA degree in psychology before entering nursing.

I have always had a passion for psychology and for mental health,” she told us.

Ultimately, she channeled that passion into a PMH nurse role, sometimes colloquially known as a psychiatric nurse or a mental health nurse, after becoming an RN.

She explained, “As a nurse, I can combine my love of psychology with skills that help my patients physically and mentally.”

Per the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, PMH nurses promote their patients’ well-being, provide care for those with mental health or substance abuse disorders, and draw on a range of experience in nursing, psychosocial training and neurobiological healthcare. They may teach patients self-care activities, practice crisis intervention, and educate patients and their families as part of an interdisciplinary team of caregivers.

Arthur regularly works with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe anxiety and depression, diagnoses that potentially co-occur alongside other physical illnesses and ailments.

Building Trust and Connecting With Patients

Kierra Arthur, Psychiatric-Mental Health RN

In psychiatric nursing, informal interactions with patients can be as important as the more formalized aspects of nursing, such as therapy, medication, drips and monitors. Arthur explained that everyday, informal interactions with patients help fuel her passion for the job.

She recalled one patient diagnosed with cancer who was also coping with severe depression as a result of that diagnosis and the simultaneous untimely departure of her spouse.

“She was so sad that she hadn’t gotten out of bed for two weeks,” Arthur recounted.

To make matters more complicated, the patient had also not showered for the past two weeks. It turned out that her hair had become so matted and tangled that she was afraid to take a shower.

“One night when I heard her crying,” Arthur recalled of her patient, “she expressed her concern about her hair being matted, and I offered to detangle her hair for her.”

Helping the patient with her self-care provided an opportunity for Arthur to connect with the patient and ultimately help the patient process some of the recent difficulties she had faced.

“While detangling her hair, she began to pour out her heart about everything happening in her life”, Arthur said. “She began to tell me about her relationship with her husband and the divorce, how she was diagnosed with cancer and how the activities that may seem mundane in everyday life to us became such a struggle for her.”

The bond created in the simple act of self-care and helping the patient be ready to shower again created an opening for the patient to process her grief with Arthur.

“I could tell she just needed to let it all out,” said Arthur. “I spent an hour detangling her hair, and I could tell she felt so much better being able to talk about her situation.”

According to Arthur, people may not appreciate the significant impact healthcare workers can have on patients through interactions like this while working as a mental health nurse.

“Mental health is such an underrated field, and I love being able to help people when they need it,” she said.

Using Vivian for Specialty Nurse Jobs Like Psychiatric Nurse Roles

Arthur sees Vivian as a key tool for specialty nurses like herself to find travel positions in the field.

“Vivian Health is perfect for travel nurses with a specialty. They offer pay transparency, resources for transferring your licensure and extremely helpful recruiters,” said Arthur.

Vivian Health has tools to search for positions by specialties, including jobs posted under psychiatric nurse, mental health and behavioral health. You can sort these jobs further by staff roles, travel positions, per diem or local contracts.

As for advice to her fellow nurses, Arthur has an overall philosophy she brings to PMH nursing: “Go to work every day with a smile; you never know who might need it.”

Michael Hines

Michael Hines is a freelance researcher and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. For 20 years, he's written on various healthcare topics, including healthcare employment, telemedicine, healthcare legislation, obesity, immunotherapy and genomics. He also writes about technology and AI, public policy, finance and investing, consumer products and corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices.

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