3 Soft Skills That Set You Apart as a Psychiatric Nurse

Working as a psychiatric nurse is a very big job. In this role, you help people dealing with mental health issues — i.e., schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression. As part of the care team, you help diagnose patients and put them on a treatment plan designed to help them live their best lives.

Psychiatric nurses work in a variety of settings, such as general hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, substance abuse centers, and clinics. Specific job descriptions vary, but several of the same soft skills are needed to succeed in this type of role across the board. Here are a few that make you uniquely suited to serve patients who need your care.


Many physical conditions are easy to identify — i.e., a virus, broken bone, or rash — but mental health issues can be more complicated. As a psychiatric nurse, you’re tasked with asking patients the right questions to identify what’s going on beneath the surface. Some psychiatric patients can detail their exact symptoms, but others do not.

It’s your job to assess the situation and get to the root of the problem, so the correct treatment can be administered. In some cases, time is of the essence — i.e., the patient is a danger to themselves or others — meaning you have to quickly observe the situation and act fast.


Knowing how to talk to patients is hugely important for a psychiatric nurse. You’re responsible for helping people understand their condition and take control of it. Communication is key, from compassionately discussing their illness to explaining their treatment plan in a way they can comprehend. If you’re able to get through to them, you can change their lives. The tone of voice is also a factor, as it can help calm upset patients and get them to listen.

Beyond communicating with patients, you also need the ability to effectively transmit information to the rest of the care team. This requires the capacity to shift seamlessly from peer to patient, depending on who you’re speaking with. Knowing how to talk to your colleagues and effectively transmit information is crucial for patient success.

Ability to Read Non-Verbal Cues

In many cases, body language is the key to understanding psychiatric patients. Many of these people are unable to effectively verbalize their feelings, but non-verbal cues — i.e., erratic movements, facial expressions, and grooming habits — tell all. This means you need to have a sharp eye, so nothing gets past you.

In addition to reading a patient’s body language, the ability to communicate nonverbally can have a soothing effect. For example, maintaining eye contact with a patient and nodding your head while they speak makes them feel heard and respected. This builds the trust needed for them to let you in and help them.

Identifying the right psychiatric job for your needs isn’t always easy. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you find your next behavioral health position, contact us today at (513) 651-9500 or by email at info@psychpros.com.

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