Education and Training: High school and on-the-job-training
Salary: Median—$11.19 per hour
Employment Outlook: Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Psychiatric aides provide routine care for mentally impaired or emotionally disturbed patients. Psychiatric aides are also called mental health assistants or psychiatric nursing assistants. They work under the supervision of a mental health team that may include psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers.
Aides help patients bathe, dress, and eat. They escort patients to examinations, treatments, therapy, and recreation. Aides also spend a great deal of time socializing with patients. They may play cards or games with patients, watch television with them, or lead group outings. Since psychiatric aides spend so much time interacting with patients, their observations on patient behavior are valuable to the rest of the staff.
Education and Training Requirements
There are no formal educational requirements to become a psychiatric aide, although many employers prefer to hire high school graduates. High school courses in the social and biological sciences are beneficial.
Some employers, especially hospitals, require job applicants to have previous training or experience. Other employers provide informal on-the-job training. Some states require psychiatric aides to complete a formal training program and obtain certification.
Getting the Job
School placement officers or counselors can offer assistance in finding job openings. The local office of the state employment agency can provide current listings of available jobs. You also can apply directly to the personnel offices of mental health facilities or hospitals.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Advancement opportunities for psychiatric aides/technicians are somewhat limited. After gaining experience, psychiatric aides may become senior aides, helping to train new workers. Most advancement, however, requires additional formal training and education.
Employment of psychiatric aides is expected to grow more slowly than average through the year 2014. However, employment will rise due to the increase in the number of older people, who often require mental health services, and to a more accepting attitude toward those needing mental health care. Employment for psychiatric aides is likely to decline in hospitals, due to attempts to cut costs by limiting in-patient treatment. As a result, job growth should increase in residential psychiatric facilities and with home health care agencies.
Most psychiatric aides work in the psychiatric units of hospitals, private psychiatric facilities, state or county mental institutions, or community mental health clinics. They generally work a forty-hour week, but often must be available to work night, weekend, and holiday shifts. Many aides work only on a part-time basis.
Work as a psychiatric aide can be physically and emotionally demanding. Aides stand for long hours and may have to lift or move patients. Sometimes they must deal with disoriented, disturbed, or even violent patients. It is important for aides to be calm, patient, and caring.
Where to Go for More Information
National Institute of Mental Health
6001 Executive Blvd., Rm 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries vary depending on the type of employer and the geographic location. Median earnings for full-time psychiatric aides was $11.19 per hour in 2004. Aides who work night or weekend shifts generally earn more than those on day shifts. Most full-time aides employed by hospitals or state facilities receive medical benefits, paid holidays, sick leave, and paid vacation time.