Licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, don't just work in nursing homes. In reality, these professionals are hired by all kinds of healthcare facilities. Although the majority work in assisted living facilities, others work in hospitals, doctor's offices and even mental health clinics. The latter work environment can be particularly challenging. If you work as an LVN in a psychiatric clinic, you know how stressful it can be. If you're training to become an LVN in psychiatric care, you will benefit enormously by developing certain skills.
7 Essential Skills for LPNs in Psychiatric Clinics
It doesn't take long working as an LVN to discern which skills count and which don't. While most LPNs are aware of the skills that they need to handle working in nursing homes and the like, many are unprepared for the special rigors of working in mental health facilities. However, LPNs who work in these settings tend to enjoy higher compensation. Many find enormous satisfaction from working with psychiatric patients. If you think this line of work is right for you, be sure to hone the following skills:
- Interpersonal skills - As a licensed practical nurse, you will interact with patients and coworkers throughout your shifts. Interpersonal skills are crucial for any LPN, but they are particularly crucial for those who work in psychiatric clinics. Patients in mental health clinics are often exceptionally difficult to manage. Sometimes, they are difficult to manage, and it can be tough to know what they need. For such situations, excellent interpersonal skills are very helpful. They also come in handy when working with other LVNs as well as with RNs, physicians and others. These skills will help you get along well with others, which will make the work much easier.
- Communication skills - As an LPN, you should avoid misunderstandings whenever you can. To accomplish this, excellent communication skills are an absolute must. You have to be willing to ask for what you need when you need it. You also have to be able to determine what patients need. Many times, patients in mental health clinics have trouble expressing themselves, so it helps for LPNs in such situations to be good communicators. Top-notch communication skills will also serve you well in your career, as they will help you to work more effectively with others.
- Coolness under pressure - Hot-headed people don't make effective psychiatric LPNs. The fact is that regardless of where they work, LPNs' duties are stressful. That's doubly or even triply true in an environment like a mental health clinic. Outbursts from mentally ill patients are par for the course, for instance, and LPNs need to be able to cope with them properly. As an LPN in a psychiatric clinic, you will encounter stressful and chaotic situations regularly, so you must be able to roll with them and stay collected. Otherwise, you will be too on edge all of the time to do your job well.
- Good judgment - Critical thinking skills are vital for any LPN who works in a mental health facility. For one thing, you will have to be particularly vigilant about observing and assessing patients. RNs and doctors will rely on you to keep them informed about how patients are faring on a day-to-day basis. LPNs who have good judgment and strong critical thinking skills are adept at performing health assessments, which is a crucial part of the job. It also helps to have sound judgment in terms of how to best help patients.
- Empathy - Having the ability to see things from other people's perspective is essential for any LPN working in mental health. This applies not only to interacting with patients but to working with others as well. In such stressful environments, even the most experienced and sensible healthcare professionals sometimes burn out and exhibit poor judgment. It's important to remember that burnout can happen to anyone and to have empathy for the person. Empathy of course will also go a long way when dealing with patients. Remember: They aren't there because they want to be, in most cases, and many are facing the most difficult struggles of their lives.
- Accountability - You won't get very far in your career as a mental health LPN by refusing to take responsibility for your actions. Others on the team need to be able to rely on you, which means that you have to be willing to own up to your mistakes. Remember that on-the-job mistakes are learning opportunities. Rather than shying away from them and denying when they happen, you should embrace them and try to learn something new. Being perceived as someone who is accountable for their actions will make you a better coworker too, and it will help enormously in your career.
- Team player - Finally, LVNs who are employed at mental health clinics do much better when they work well with others. All too often, entry-level employees feel like they aren't really part of the team, and nothing could be further from the truth. If you want to be able to rely on others for help when you need it, you have to be willing to help them. Do whatever you can to make others' work easier. Collaborate with other LPNs to find better ways to do things. Cheer each other on and lend a helping hand when one is needed. These qualities will make you a more effective LPN, and they will make the work a lot more pleasant too.
Working as an LPN in a psychiatric clinic is immensely challenging. Most who work in such environments would agree that it's very rewarding as well. By honing the seven skills that are highlighted above, your work will be much easier, and you are sure to go much farther in your career.