CNA Training for a Career as a Psychiatric Aide / Mental Health Assistant

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Mental health assistants or psychiatric aides are CNAs who have gone further into a specified niche and specialize in mental health. These aides work with mentally impaired patients in a variety of settings. Job opportunities can include working  in mental health wards, rehabilitation centers for drug and alcohol abuse, or working with children who have been diagnosed with autism or mental retardation.

Is this the type of job for you? As a former CNA whose first job was in an adult facility for the developmentally disabled of all ages, I can attest first hand that although CNA training may not fully prepare you for all the ins-and-outs of this specialized career, you actually can go right into employment at this type of facility without any extra education.

After my CNA training was complete, I was actually offered the position as part of my job placement from the CNA training school. Not quite prepared to work in this type of environment, I will say that it didn’t take much time at all before I fell in love with the patients, developed relationships with many of them, and learned quite a bit along the way. The only thing I would say is if you don’t think you could adjust to an overstimulating environment, this may not be the career for you. Smells and noise were at an all time high in this facility, but it only took a week or so to get used to it. After that, I didn’t notice it at all.

CNA Training – Job Duties of the Mental Health Assistant

Mental health aides perform all general CNA duties such as bathing, grooming, feeding and dressing patients, but they also participate with them in socialization activities and interactions which provide both educational as well as recreational benefits. Depending on the mental level of the patient, recreational activities can involve playing games, crafts, singing songs together, reading a story together or a host of other things.

CNA training graduates who have an interest in this field should be aware of  potential violent outbursts from patients and understand how to react to protect not only themselves but the patient as well. Mental health patients may be uncooperative, disoriented, and even irritable or angry. Sometimes these patients are combative.

Mental health aides also accompany patients on field trips and depending on the facility, they may escort them to and from treatments and exams. CNA training graduates will also learn to observe the patients for behavioral outbursts or physical or emotional changes, reporting and charting these changes.

Is CNA Training all I Need to Become a Mental Health Aide?

Although it is possible to be hired on as a CNA in an mental health facility with only CNA training, many states require additional training specifically in dealing with mental illness and behavioral issues. This training is usually made available to you once you’re hired on with a facility because it is specific to the age group and/or types of mental or behavioral illnesses with which they work.

Salary of a Mental Health Aide

Mental health aides may be employed in hospitals, skilled-care facilities, rehab facilities for substance abuse, residential care facilities, and even prisons or other detention facilities such as Youth Authority. These are usually operated on twenty-four-hour schedules and require coverage for all shifts, including weekends and holidays.

The median hourly salary is $12 although salaries can range from $9-17 hourly.

Does this sound like a career you’d be interested in? Enrolling in CNA training today is your first step to a new career!

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