How Nurses Can Be Compassionate In Psychiatric Mental Health


A psychiatric mental health nurse is a healthcare team member who cares for patients with mental illnesses. They work with patients in medical settings, including hospitals and clinics, but may also work in community settings such as schools, correctional facilities and private practices.

Mental health nurses often work with patients who have been through traumatic experiences. Nurses can best serve their patients by being compassionate and nonjudgmental, but this is easier said than done. Understanding how to be compassionate is critical for a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, or PMHNP, in particular, because it helps them provide the best possible care for each patient. The BSN to MSN-PMHNP online program from Spring Arbor University will prepare you to care for patients with mental health issues across their lifespan.

An empathetic approach to patient care can make all the difference

Empathizing with your patients is a key part of being a good nurse. Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings, and it is crucial for nurses because it helps them connect with their patients.

Empathy can help you as a nurse to reach out to people who may be struggling and be there for them if they’re having a hard time. Moreover, when you don’t know what else to do or say, showing empathy will give a patient an idea of how much you care about them as individuals.

Be an active listener

Many people struggle with communicating their feelings and emotions, especially when they’re in a crisis. This is why a psychiatric mental health nurse needs to be an active listener when interacting with patients. Instead of immediately jumping into problem-solving mode or offering advice, ask questions. For example, if a patient is anxious about an upcoming appointment, ask them what they’re worried about and listen to their response. Asking open-ended questions will allow them to open up about what’s bothering them so that you can better understand their situation.

Assessing both the physical and emotional health of patients is vital

It’s natural to think of physical and emotional health as distinct spheres that are inextricably linked. For example, a patient with a chronic back injury may be experiencing pain, which causes them to feel depressed. A person grieving the loss of their spouse may appear physically ill due to stress or lack of sleep. Nurses must consider both sides of the equation when assessing patients and planning treatment strategies.

Remaining nonjudgmental is the best approach

As a nurse, you will deal with patients who have mental health issues. It is important to remember that everyone is struggling with something. If a patient comes to the hospital with depression or schizophrenia, it does not mean they are bad people or deserve to be treated poorly. How we treat others affects their feelings about us and their recovery process, so try not to judge them for their behavior. Remember that you are here for one job: helping your patient get better and back to their life as soon as possible. It is not your place to judge them.

Be respectful in your language

Avoid using words like “crazy” or “insane” when referring to mental illness symptoms or psychiatric conditions. These derogatory terms dehumanize individuals who are suffering from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, mood disorders and substance abuse problems.

Instead, use expressions like “What’s going on in your head right now?” or “How do you feel right now?”, along with other non-offensive phrases. This allows patients with mental health issues to open up about their feelings without feeling uncomfortable about being judged by others for having these feelings in the first place.

Having your mental health needs taken care of can help with compassion

It is important to take care of yourself regularly. The time you spend caring for others can be draining and leaves little energy or time to take care of your own mental health needs. To be compassionate and effective as a nurse, you must also make sure you are meeting your own needs.

Nurses must have self-care routines to continue working at maximum capacity without burning out. If your mental health isn’t good enough, it will affect how well you do in the long run. If it is not addressed early enough, this can result in burnout and eventually quitting nursing altogether.

Nurses should be aware of their limitations

Knowing what you can and cannot do is important in any field, but this is particularly pressing in nursing. The stress of working with people who are suffering from psychiatric disorders can be intense. It’s easy to feel like you have to do everything you possibly can for your patients, even if it’s not within your scope of practice or training.

However, being aware of your limitations is also part of being compassionate. You can’t help everyone; sometimes, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. If someone needs help beyond what you can provide, it is okay to say no and refer them elsewhere, whether that means referring them to another professional or just scheduling another appointment with them at another time when you’ll be better equipped to handle the situation.

Likewise, remember that nurses have mental health needs, too, and they should never hesitate to ask for support from their colleagues when those needs arise.

Nurses should not be afraid to ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it or take a break if the situation warrants it. If you feel overwhelmed by the circumstances of the patient’s illness, talk about your feelings with colleagues or managers.

Be wary of compassion fatigue

Nurses in psychiatric mental health settings are expected to be compassionate, but this may be challenging at times. Not only do they have to deal with the usual job stressors, but they also face unique challenges that can lead to compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue is a combination of burnout and secondary traumatic stress (STS). It’s the emotional toll that comes from working with patients who are suffering. The symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Exhaustion
  • Boredom

Compassion fatigue can affect mental health nurses in particular because they often see the most difficult cases. They may see patients who have been abused or neglected, lost loved ones, or whose own lives have been damaged by mental illness.

Emotional stress can be overwhelming if it isn’t managed properly. Here are some ways mental health nurses can keep up their compassion without burning out.

Set emotional boundaries

It is not uncommon for a nurse working in behavioral healthcare to become so emotionally involved with their patients that they find it hard to separate themselves from the situation. The problem with this is that when you’re taking care of someone else’s emotions, you may end up neglecting your own.

One way to protect yourself from compassion fatigue is by setting emotional boundaries with your patients. You need to be able to separate their feelings and their needs from your own.

If necessary, ask for help from other nurses or therapists, take some time off, and talk about your feelings with family members or friends.

Reflect more

Be aware of how you’re feeling throughout the day at work, and take time to reflect on those feelings. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, address the situation head-on by talking to your supervisor or co-workers about what’s bothering you. You can also take up journaling or meditation.

Find a work-life balance

Finding a good work-life balance means taking time off work and getting away from your job when possible. If you can’t get away from your job, try to make it less stressful by taking breaks during the day. Find something that helps you relax after work, such as reading or listening to music.

Have a support system

You can avoid compassion fatigue by having a support system. This includes family, friends and co-workers who can help you stay focused on your career.

You should also talk to a counselor or other mental health professional about how your work affects you. Try to find someone who understands the challenges of working in this field and can offer advice on how to manage them.

It’s also important to take time for yourself. It’s easy to burn out if you don’t take care of yourself first, so make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, eating well and exercising regularly.

The bottom line

A psychiatric mental health nurse must be able to assess a patient’s condition and provide appropriate care based on the level of care required. These nurses must also be able to communicate effectively with other members of the healthcare team and the patient’s family members or caregivers.

Compassionate care is an important component of nursing practice for all nurses, but it takes on special importance in psychiatric mental health nursing because many patients suffer from serious emotional distress or trauma. Nurses in this area need to be compassionate toward their patients and caring toward each other because they often work together as part of a team to treat complicated cases over long periods.

Leave A Reply