Psychiatric Technician Job Description
Psychiatric technicians assist in the treatment of people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities. They work side by side with doctors and other medical professionals as trusted helpers. Besides carrying out instructions, psychiatric technicians are important observers. Their first-hand experience with patients hour after hour allows them to witness behavioral ups and downs. Such information influences treatment decisions; the rapport established between psychiatric technicians and clients can play a large role in successful outcomes.
Psychiatric technicians work full-time in hospitals, group homes, and other facilities that serve people with mental illness. Since patients require around the clock care, including nights and weekends, shifts vary considerably. Psychiatric technicians spend a good deal of time on their feet moving from room to room. Physical strength also can be a plus if it becomes necessary to restrain a patient. According to projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for psychiatric technicians will increase 5 percent through 2024, with more than 1,000 job openings each year resulting from new jobs being created and existing jobs becoming available.
Psychiatric Technician Duties and Responsibilities
In order to accomplish their goal of helping clients live better lives, psychiatric technicians perform a myriad of tasks. Our perusal of job postings revealed the following to be among the most common and critical:
Psychiatric technicians, especially ones new to the field, assist patients with basic life activities such as grooming, eating, and cleaning one’s room. They also may provide services such as helping children with homework or arranging transportation for clients to attend a community-based program.
Since psychiatric technicians spend a great deal of time interacting with patients, they often form trusting relationships. These bonds can be significant in the treatment process. For instance, a client may listen to a psychiatric technician who explains the importance of good nutrition or why medicine needs to be taken every day. Or perhaps someone experiencing social anxiety can be persuaded to attend movie night accompanied by the psychiatric technician.
As patients go about their daily activities, psychiatric technicians may observe behavioral changes. Reporting what they see can significantly influence care decisions. For instance, a patient that experiences a mood swing at a certain time each day may need a booster dose of medication.
A written record provides a look at progress and a solid point of reference for further decisions. Psychiatric technicians write down information (or enter it into a computer) so that everyone involved in care can have access. In an eating disorders unit, for instance, they may weigh patients daily and record what food they ate at each meal. Obtaining and charting vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature is another standard task.
Assisting in Treatment
Experienced psychiatric technicians may perform tasks such as filling out paperwork to admit new patients, conducting one-to-one interviews with clients, taking on leadership roles in therapy sessions, administering medications, and contacting relatives for updates and family conferences.
Psychiatric Technician Skills
At the heart of being a psychiatric technician is a concern for people. However, the job can be challenging and emotionally draining. Patience and empathy are great qualities for a psychiatric technician to possess. Other “soft skills” that serve candidates well include:
- Working well in teams since many people are involved in patient care
- Attending to detail so that behavioral changes are noted
- Listening actively to patients to better understand what they are experiencing and to build stronger bonds
- Remaining composed in unforeseen or emergency situations
- Respecting patient confidentiality
- Following directions exactly as given
Psychiatric Technician Tools of the trade
In order to perform their duties, psychiatric technicians use items such as the following:
- Charts – written records that include observations and evaluations as well as information on a person’s background, medical history, and medications
- Psychiatric medications – drugs, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, stimulants, and mood stabilizers, that are taken orally or administered by a shot
- Treatment plan – detailed outline of the various measures being taken to help a patient
- Therapy – individual or group sessions in which patients meet with a professional to better understand their behavior and come up with ways to fix problems
Psychiatric Technician Education and Training
Many vocational institutions offer two-year programs that certify graduates as psychiatric technicians. Programs involve both classroom learning and supervised hands-on clinical experience. Some candidates come to the position with associate or bachelor’s degrees in fields such as psychology, biology, nursing, or family services. Licensing requirements vary by state. Every candidate should become CPR certified before hitting the job market.
Psychiatric Technician Salary
The median annual salary for psychiatric technicians is $30,970. Psychiatric technicians in the 10th percentile earn about $21,300 a year, and the highest paid make in excess of $59,900 a year. Psychiatric technicians in California, Connecticut, and New Jersey make the highest median salaries in the U.S. – $59,490, $55,090, and $45,090, respectively.
Psychiatric Technician Resources
Becoming a psychiatric technician can be a rewarding career for someone who likes to help people. We’ve compiled a list of additional sources that can help you decide if such a job is right for you:
American Association of Psychiatric Technicians – This respected organization is the go-to place for all things associated with becoming a psychiatric technician. Viewers of its site are bound to come away with a better understanding of educational requirements, licensing and certification procedures, and daily activities.
Careers in Mental Health: Opportunities in Psychology, Counseling and Social Work – Besides information on a variety of careers, this book covers such topics as characteristics for success, ethical issues, the importance of critical thinking, and hot topics in the field of mental health.
1000+ Practice Questions with Rationales for Psychiatric Technician Licensure Examination – While obviously helpful to students ready to take the exam, this book also gives aspiring psychiatric technicians a glimpse into situations and activities they are likely to encounter if they pursue this career.
The Psychology Network – Still have questions? Chances are someone among the 234,000+ members of this LinkedIn Group has answers!
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