Psychiatric Aide

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Psychiatric Aide


Some of us are perfectly healthy physically, but have troubles with our mental health. Some people are born with developmental difficulties, while others develop them due to brain injuries. Some people become mentally ill due to genetics, chemical imbalances, or trauma. Some of these mental difficulties are surmountable, while others are incurable, and people living with them must learn to cope with them, adapting to their unique ways of thinking and interacting with the world around them.

Often, people with mental obstacles to overcome live in mental hospitals, or in residences for people with mental illness or mental impairment. Often, patients live independently, and check into hospitals when they are undergoing tests, or are experiencing difficulties adjusting to life and handling situations.

Psychiatric aides work in hospitals, clinics, and sometimes with outpatients, providing physical, psychological, and rehabilitative care for the patients. They do everything from plan, implement, and supervise activities, teach daily living skills, and maintain records of behavioral changes, to tidying up rooms, assisting with feeding and changing, and visiting with the patients, listening to their stories and answering any questions they can.

Psychiatric aides do not have an easy job. They work long, hard hours in difficult environments. The job can be stressful and frustrating, but also fulfilling when patients make progress. The goal of anyone working with mentally ill or challenged patients is to facilitate independent living and thinking for the patients. By working so closely with the patients, psychiatric aides play an important role in this independence process. They help develop trust, self-reliance, and friendship in those who need it most.
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  Interests and Skills  
Psychiatric aides need be strong, both physically and emotionally. This is difficult and often emotional work and they need to be caring, tolerant, patient, and determined to help people. Psychiatric aides must be understanding and they need to feel comfortable around the mentally ill, the elderly, and the families of patients. They are good at following instructions and protocol. They must also be able to stay calm in the stressful situations that can arise in this occupation. They need to have good listening and communication skills and the ability to be sensitive to the needs of people from a variety of backgrounds.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Help patients with daily activities such as dressing, eating, and washing
  • Change bed linen
  • Serve food and drinks, feeding patients when necessary
  • Supervise exercise routines and other activities
  • Maintain a clean, orderly, and safe environment
  • Clean medical equipment and instruments
  • Supply and empty bed pans
  • Perform clerical and phone duties
  • Record and report patient behaviors
  • Take residents to appointments, shopping centers, and recreational facilities
  • Instruct daily living skills
  • Maintain inventory of supplies
  • Psychiatric aides have a variety of responsibilities. Generally a typical day will involve working closely with patients, assisting them in daily tasks. They try and control behavior while still allowing the patient to be in as much control as possible over their own experiences. Psychiatric aides will work closely with their patients, as well as meet regularly with supervisors or senior nursing staff to discuss patient issues. Psychiatric aides who provide home care travel throughout their communities, while psychiatric aides in hospitals spend most of each day indoors in the same building.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Psychiatric aides work in general hospitals, mental hospitals, and seniors' care facilities. Some find work with agencies which provide home care service to people requiring assistance. They can work full- or part-time. They may work odd hours, including evenings, weekends, and overnight. Generally, they work alone with the patients, or alongside nurses, and report regularly to supervisors and management.
  • Like any work in the health care field, there is some exposure to disease, toxic chemicals, and body fluids, and the aide must take necessary precautions at all times.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Psychiatric aides can leave the field of mental health, and find work at a general hospital, a nursing home, or get into home care. Some go on to become registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, therapists, and social workers. They can also start up their own agencies, and supervise aides who provide home care.

  Educational Paths  
There are some nurse aide programs available at colleges, but there is no required program to follow for those interested in becoming psychiatric aides. Generally, employers look for people with first aid certification, as well as some postsecondary courses at college or university, in social science, first aid, psychology, or health care. Most employees receive intensive training once they are hired.

Employers also like applicants with some experience working with mentally ill or challenged people, so volunteer work in a hospital, recreation center, or school is a good idea for anyone interested in working as a psychiatric aide.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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