Psychiatric Nursing

Most of us became nurses because we wanted to help people.

Unfortunately, there’s often a disconnect between the motivation for our work and the experience of it. Large patient loads, high turnover and the pressure to move people through as quickly as possible can make it feel nearly impossible to deliver the quality of care you know your patients deserve.

“Psychiatric nursing is different,” said Kristien Bontrager, nurse manager for Oaklawn’s inpatient hospital in Goshen. “Here, you build relationships with your patients and you see them transform before they go home.”

Good psychiatric care doesn’t just change one life, Bontrager says. It changes families and communities.

Is it right for you?

Michelle Burke, Oaklawn’s Director of Nursing, is quick to point out that psychiatric nursing isn’t for everyone. It takes an open mind and thick skin. You have to be able to separate the patient from their disease. It takes humility, too, she says.

“In that moment, they’ve come to us for help and we’re the professionals who can help them,” she said. “But the fact is, any one of us at any time could need that same help.”

It isn’t just patients who benefit from that compassion, they say. Nurses do, too. The team is non-competitive and supportive of each other, emphasizing self-care.

“I’ve learned so much about my own health: mentally, spiritually, relationally,” Bontrager said. “Here, I’ve grown professionally and personally.”

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