Working as a psychiatric attendant can be a demanding job. But is also a rewarding one to those who have the compassion and skill to provide direct, personal care to people with mental health disorders, substance abuse problems or disabilities. Attendants often form close relationships with patients in their care because they spend so many hours together.
Key Role in Care
Psychiatric attendants, more commonly called aides, are often entry-level employees. They are involved in almost every aspect of the operations in facilities that provide mental health care, from meals and housekeeping to patient care. They work one-on-one with patients, or with small groups of patients, assisting with daily living activities and other tasks. They also work with nurses, doctors, psychologists and other professionals to monitor patients' behavior and mental and physical conditions.
A Helping Hand
Many psychiatric patients need assistance with activities such as bathing, dressing, eating or even taking part in therapeutic or recreational activities. Psychiatric aides are often assigned a specific patient or a small group of patients to help with these activities. They might also be called on to prevent residents from wandering or leaving a particular area in the facility, and to restrain patients who become agitated or violent.
Wide Scope of Work
Psychiatric aides often bridge several departments in a psychiatric facility. They assist with meals and recreational activities such as field trips. They also provide light housekeeping duties like making patient beds and keeping patient areas neat and free of obstacles that could result in falls or other injuries. In addition, aides might transport patients to appointments outside the facility.
A Variety of Settings
Psychiatric attendants have a variety of facilities in which they can find employment. These include public and private psychiatric hospitals, general hospitals and long-term care facilities, as well as residential mental health and substance abuse rehabilitation facilities. Some outpatient mental health providers might also employ aides to assist with patient care. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of jobs for psychiatric aides to increase 15% between 2010 and 2020, which is slightly higher than the average for all occupations. Demand will be driven in part by an aging population, which will likely increase the number of people with cognitive mental diseases.
Becoming a Psychiatric Aide/Attendant
Most psychiatric aides need at least a high school diploma to qualify or a position. Training is usually conducted on the job, and often consists of lectures and hands-on training. CPR certification is often required, and may be part of the training program. Aides may work under the supervision of other experienced aides for weeks or longer before working alone. The median annual income of psychiatric aides was $24,950 as of May 2010, according to the BLS. The lowest 10 percent of earners earned made less than $17,270 a year, while the top 10 percent made more than $40,070.
A writer and information professional, J.E. Cornett has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Lincoln Memorial University and a Master of Science in library and information science from the University of Kentucky. A former newspaper reporter with two Kentucky Press Association awards to her credit, she has over 10 years experience writing professionally.