Behavioral health nurses are registered nurses who specialize in caring for patients with psychological and behavioral disorders. The terms behavioral health and mental health are often used interchangeably and the duties, patient populations, and work settings of a behavioral health nurse frequently overlap with those of a mental health or psychiatric nurse. Although it can be a stressful career path, behavioral health nursing can be very rewarding for those wanting to help patients suffering from mental illness and seeking an in-demand specialty with numerous opportunities.
Behavioral health nursing is a top recruited specialty on Vivian with 100s of jobs for behavioral health travel nurses available at leading facilities around the country.
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Behavioral Health Nurse FAQs
How Much Do Behavioral Health Nurse Jobs Pay?
For jobs available on Vivian as of Thursday, October 28th 2021, the average weekly salary for a Behavioral Health Nurse is $2,019, but can pay up to $4,810 per week.
- min - $993
- avg - $2,019
- max - $4,810
What hospitals currently have Behavioral Health Nurse job opportunities?
The hospitals on Vivian that currently have the most Behavioral Health Nurse jobs are SSM Health DePaul Hospital- Saint Louis (26 jobs), Eastern State Hospital (22 jobs), and Rochester Psychiatric Center (14 jobs).
What are the best agencies for Behavioral Health Nurse jobs?
The agencies on Vivian that currently have the most Behavioral Health Nurse jobs are Stability Healthcare (351), Coast Medical Service (260), and Accountable Healthcare Staffing (215).
What does a behavioral health nurse do?
Many patients may have multiple diagnoses that involve both behavioral disorders and mental illnesses, and the duties of behavioral health nurses vary based on their patient population and work setting. Behavioral disorders and/or mental health illnesses a behavioral health nurse may encounter include substance use disorders, eating disorders, self-injury, addictive behaviors, anxiety or panic disorders, personality disorders, trauma-related disorders like PTSD, psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, phobias, and mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder. Some general duties may include:
Completing behavioral assessments
Recognizing signs and symptoms of acute/chronic mental illness
Participating in the development of treatment plans
Evaluating patients’ responses to treatment, interventions, or coping mechanisms
Delivering nursing care based on patients’ specific clinical needs
Applying pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods of care
Notifying physicians of changes in condition
Continuously monitoring patients and surrounding environments for safety
Documenting care provided in patient records
Educating patients and their families based on assessed needs
Duties involving behavioral interventions may include:
Assessing patients’ appearance, mood, and behaviors
Identifying and responding to inappropriate/abnormal behavior
Encouraging stress/anxiety reduction and relaxation techniques
Assisting patients with self-control of behavior
Helping patients to develop/use coping methods and other behavioral strategies
Initiating early interventions and aid in preventing negative behaviors or violent outbursts
Recognizing behavioral changes and implementing measures to manage symptoms/reduce stressors
Maintaining a safe, therapeutic environment
Duties for behavioral health nurses treating patients with substance abuse and other dependencies may include providing care for substance abuse withdrawal, overdose, or adverse drug reactions. They may also determine when there’s a need for medical hospitalization due to acute withdrawal symptoms. Other tasks may include:
Assessing patients’ reactions to diagnoses/treatments of substance abuse
Assessing patients for alcohol/drug-related dependencies, withdrawal, or toxicities
Providing care/support for non-substance dependencies, such as sexual or gambling addictions
Evaluating patients’ responses to treatment plans and revising as necessary
Encouraging patients to participate in support groups
Providing information on substance abuse and treatment plans
Where do behavioral health nurses work?
Behavioral health nurses often work in behavioral health inpatient, outpatient, or community health clinics. They may also work in psychiatric hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, residential facilities for mentally disabled or developmentally delayed patients, and community-based shelters. Some work as liaisons in emergency rooms, acute care settings, and med-surg units that have patients experiencing behavioral health crises. There are also numerous behavioral health travel nursing opportunities available for short-term and long-term assignments.
What skills make a good behavioral health nurse?
Good behavioral health nurses possess superior assessment skills and a keen ability to recognize body language and other non-verbal cues of behavioral and mental health crises through their advanced knowledge of the behavioral sciences and mental illnesses. Their exceptional critical thinking and clinical judgment skills allow them to react quickly, calmly, and consistently to prevent self-harm or physical injuries to others. They have strong communication, active listening, and other interpersonal skills that allow them to excel at patient interaction within appropriate boundaries, making a profound difference in their patients’ lives. Open-mindedness, empathy, patience, and the ability to be assertive without being aggressive are vital qualities for a good behavioral health nurse.
How to become a Behavioral Health Travel Nurse
The first step towards a career as a behavioral health travel nurse is an associate degree in nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited nursing program. To become licensed, every state requires graduates to pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Certification in Basic Life Support is required and some positions require Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support certification and/or crisis prevention training. Most travel positions require one to two-plus years of previous experience and some want applicants to have previous travel experience.
Although certification in a nursing specialty area isn’t required, it’s encouraged. Logical certifications for consideration include Certified Addiction Registered Nurse through the Addictions Nursing Certification Board and/or board-certified Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification (PMH-BC) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.