Psychiatric Aide

Behavioral Health Aide, Certified Nurses' Aide (CNA), Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Charge Aide   More Names
Charge Attendant, Clinical Assistant, Developmental Diabetes Secure Care Treatment Aide (DDSCTA), Health Service Worker, Mental Health Aide (MHA), Mental Health Assistant, Mental Health Associate, Mental Health Orderly, Mental Health Program Assistant, Mental Health Technician (MHT), Mental Health Worker (MHW), Mental Retardation Aide, Neuropsychiatric Aide, Nursing Assistant, Patient Care Assistant (PCA), Professional Nursing Assistant (PNA), Psychiatric Aide, Psychiatric Aide Supervisor, Psychiatric Aides, Psychiatric Assistant, Psychiatric Attendant, Psychiatric Nursing Aide, Psychiatric Nursing Assistant, Psychiatric Orderly, Psychiatric Technician, Psychiatric Technician Assistant, Residential Counselor, Therapeutic Program Worker (TPW)

Help provide mentally impaired or emotionally disturbed patients with routine mental health and personal care. Also may support treatments for substance abuse patients to help them overcome their dependencies. Psychiatric aides work as part of a team under direction of psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, and social workers to provide needed care and treatment.

Most psychiatric aides work for privately-owned or non-profit hospitals or government run facilities. These include general medical and surgical hospitals, psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, and mental care facilities. The rest are employed in nursing homes and residential care facilities, outpatient centers, and individual and family care settings. When working in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, they often are the primary caregivers who have more contact with patients than any other staff members.

On a day-to-day basis, psychiatric aides monitor patients in order to detect unusual behavior, and report observations to professional staff. They offer mentally impaired or emotionally disturbed patients routine physical, emotional, psychological or rehabilitation care as directed by nursing and medical staff. This includes organizing, supervising, and encouraging patient participation in social, educational, and recreational activities.

Psychiatric aides also assist patients in becoming accustomed to and maintaining hospital or other facility routines. They serve meals and feed patients needing assistance or persuasion; they offer assistance in bathing, dressing, and grooming, demonstrating these skills as needed. When required, they help restrain or aid patients to prevent injury. They also assist in updating and maintaining patient records of condition and activity, such as eating habits and behavior, and perform basic nursing duties such as giving medications, measuring vital signs, and drawing blood samples.

Psychiatric aides may work a rotating shift since their patients require round-the-clock care and monitoring. As a result, some work evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays. Among their other duties, they work to clean and disinfect rooms and furnishings to maintain a safe and orderly environment. This can include emptying bedpans and changing soiled bed linens.

Advancement opportunities for psychiatric aides can be limited, but a willingness to obtain more education and training in the psychiatric field can lead to a career as a psychiatric technician or licensed practical nurse (LPN).

Credentials Needed: There are no uniform credentialing or licensing requirements among the states for those who wish to work as psychiatric aides. Some states and employers may have certain general conditions for employment such as a criminal background check and a medical physical exam to ensure that the candidate is in good health. Since states periodically do revise their licensing requirements for various healthcare occupations, it is a good idea to check with your state health department for the latest information when beginning training.

The "Find Programs" link on this website includes a guide to state licensing and related requirements for psychiatric aides and also links to industry-based certifications which individuals may choose to obtain to help demonstrate their skill competencies in this occupation.

In particular, the Nationally Certified Psychiatric Technician 1 credential sponsored by the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT) may be useful for psychiatric aides to benchmark their technical knowledge and skills. This level 1 exam has questions concerning basic areas of nursing, medical terminology and mental illness. It addresses issues that would normally be encountered by entry-level employees, such as mental health workers or nurse's aides. It does not include difficult questions that require advanced training and education.

Some Key Things to Remember: Psychiatric aides usually are employed by hospitals, mental health, or substance abuse treatment facilities. They help provide mentally impaired or emotionally disturbed patients with routine physical, emotional, psychological and rehabilitative care; and support treatments for substance abuse patients to help them overcome their dependencies.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
5% - Slower than average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $22,630 - $33,590    Hourly: $11 - $16
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

Work as an aide can be physically demanding. Aides spend many hours standing and walking, and they often face heavy workloads. Aides must guard against back injury, because they may have to move patients into and out of bed or help them stand or walk. It is important for aides to be trained in and to follow the proper procedures for lifting and moving patients. Aides also may face hazards from minor infections and major diseases, such as hepatitis, but can avoid infections by following proper procedures

Aides must be in good health. A physical examination, including State-regulated disease tests, may be required.

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Legal Requirements
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(Data Drawn from O*NET)

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

High School or GED (HS)
Find Programs

Percent Job Growth:

5% - Slower than average
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $22,630 - $33,590

Hourly: $11 - $16