How Do I Become a Mental Health Nurse?

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  • Written By: T. L. Childree
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 18 July 2019
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A mental health nurse cares for patients in hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities. If you desire to become a mental health nurse, you will need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited college. In the U.S., you must also take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination before you can become a mental health nurse. You may want to receive professional certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center or an equivalent organization. If you wish to advance in this career, it is likely that you will need to continue your education by earning a master’s degree in nursing.

Mental health nursing can be a physically and emotionally demanding profession. Prior to making the decision to become a mental health nurse, you should determine if you have the personal qualities required for this profession. These nurses assist and care for patients suffering from conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. As a mental health nurse, you may find employment in a hospital, clinic, or private physician’s office. You may also find work in a correctional, long-term care, or drug rehabilitation facility.


Before you can become a mental health nurse, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited learning institution. If possible, begin taking courses in chemistry, biology, and physics while in high school. Then enroll in a college that is accredited by an institution such as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing or National League for Nursing. You may be able to enter the nursing field after earning a two-year, associate’s degree and continue to earn your bachelor’s degree while gaining practical work experience.

In order to become a mental health nurse, you must also sit for an official licensing exam. In the U.S., this exam is known as the National Council Licensure Examination and is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. This exam covers areas of patient care such as maintaining a safe and effective environment and promoting and maintaining good health. You will also be tested on subjects pertaining to psychological and physiological integrity. Successful completion of this exam is required to be officially recognized as a Registered Nurse.

It is also a good idea to be professionally certified by a recognized organization such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center. This certification ensures that you stay up-to-date on the latest research and developments in the field of nursing. Renewal of this nursing certification is required every five years to keep your knowledge current. You may also want to continue your formal education until you have earned a master’s degree in nursing. In some areas, mental health nurses with a master’s degree can be licensed to diagnose and prescribe medications for their patients.



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