Psychiatric Nursing


Psychiatric Nursing presents a continuum of services for patients experiencing mental, behavioral or addiction-related challenges.

Hear His Story DAMON RN, Staff Nurse, Psychiatry

In the psychiatric nursing specialty, nurses represent one of our greatest resources in effective patient treatment. Together with our patients and inter-professional colleagues, we facilitate personal breakthroughs, serving diverse patient populations in a multitude of settings: from pediatric to geriatric, city to suburban. We focus on the societal and personal stressors faced by the individual patient. This can include the pressures of parenting and aging, coping with crises and the trauma of domestic violence. At NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, we define the forefront of psychiatric treatment.

We collaborate with all disciplines in both outpatient settings and inpatient units—where the least restrictive milieu possible is provided to maintain the highest level of patient functioning and safety. Whatever your focus, your skills will be clearly highlighted in your area of practice.  You will partner with your patients in their recovery.

Historic Roots:
The Bloomingdale Asylum was established by New York Hospital in 1821 in Manhattan and was one of two stand-alone mental hospitals to respond to the movement known as "moral treatment" of the mentally ill. The hospital was relocated to White Plains in 1894 with the name change to Bloomingdale Hospital and offered progressive, humanistic treatment.

Our nurses' training school at Bloomingdale Hospital in 1895 included education in psychiatric nursing, a relatively new specialty at that time.   In 1917-18, the Directress of Nursing and other nurses and staff members from Bloomingdale Hospital served in WWI treating shell-shocked soldiers in France and "rendered yeoman service in raising psychiatric nursing standards to a higher level." [Hall's (1947) American Psychiatry: 1844-1944, p. 388]. The healing environments of the grounds as well as therapeutic activities were established from the beginning.

In the early 1970's our psychiatric nurses transitioned from wearing white uniforms to wearing casual street clothes.  This was because, at the time, "the literature began to suggest that white uniforms set up a barrier for developing therapeutic communication with behavioral health patients." (Miller, T, Mann, N. & Grim, R. (2010) Clothes Encounter: Patient perception of nursing attire in a behavioral health unit. JAPNA, 16 (3).

Currently our policy is clinical nursing staff wear professional or casual business attire with a name badge and the nursing role clearly displayed.  As more psychiatric units treat patients with more medical comorbidities, nursing attire may be reviewed again according to the most current research on patient perception of nurses as it relates to the therapeutic relationship. (Miller et al., 2010)

Over the years, nurses continue to build on a foundation of excellence in education and compassionate, evidence-based patient care in therapeutic milieus at all of our sites.

Progressive Practices, Ensuring our Future:
Part of the attraction to our specialty is our rapidly-expanding clinical knowledge, including a multitude of new and effective psychopharmacologic agents and milieu improvements. We're a national resource for psychiatric nurses. We hold conferences related to holistic nursing practice.  Our Shared Governance Model for nursing practice incorporates Unit-Practice Councils (UPCs) whose members are part of hospital-wide councils and committees.  Our UPCs were instrumental in rolling out Primary Nursing on every inpatient unit and continue to improve patient care through evidence-based initiatives.

At NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division, many of the BSN and MSN programs in the New York City area utilize our hospital for clinical education. What's more, our publications and presentations garner national awards and attention.

Our Westchester facility has proudly blazed the way in establishing the Planetree model for inpatient psychiatry. In 2011, we became the first psychiatric hospital in the nation to be designated as a Planetree facility. The Planetree philosophy is integrated into every aspect of treatment and nurses have ongoing education in this patient-focused approach to care.

Read more: http://nyp.org/news/hospital/planetree-designated-patient-care.html

Variety of Therapies and Practice Settings:
We have psychiatric nursing practice opportunities for both generalists and advanced practice nurses.

Where We Work:

Nurses at NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital provide the full range of inpatient services for adults with psychiatric disorders. Our 30-bed unit serves some of the most diverse communities in the country. In fact, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital is one of few US centers that can provide services exclusively in Spanish to Spanish-speaking patients and their families. Our multidisciplinary and multicultural approach combines our talents with those of social workers, activity therapists, psychiatrists and substance abuse counselors. Our nurses also work to provide specialized care services for patients who suffer mental illness in conjunction with chemical dependency.


The renowned experts of NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center apply the latest information and best traditions of compassionate medicine and nursing to the care of adult and geriatric patients. We provide psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, psychiatric testing and psychoanalysis for a variety of primary diagnoses services in our 26-bed Milstein Hospital Building Psychiatric Nursing Unit.

We're also home to the McKeen Pavilion, located on the ninth floor of the Milstein Hospital Building. An amenities unit, McKeen Pavilion provides general medical services with a heightened level of privacy. The environment is described as tranquil and spa-like. Among the many services, our nurses in the McKeen Pavilion provide care to patients undergoing inpatient medical evaluation and management of drug and alcohol detoxification.


Psychiatric nursing at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center is provided on our 32 bed Payne Whitney Manhattan unit. Here, we are uniquely situated to offer care to adult and geriatric populations. In addition, we have a very active Adolescent Partial Hospital Program. Our services encompass psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, psychiatric testing, and milieu therapy, for a variety of primary diagnoses.

All of our psychiatric facilities ascribe to the Planetree Care Model, positively influencing not only our care approach but also our work atmosphere. We provide holistically pleasant environments, fostering effective healing and communication for both patients and care providers. Coming later in 2014 is a Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) which will be linked to a crisis mobilization team.


At Westchester, our heterogeneous patient populations are treated on specialized units, a Partial Hospital, Day Program, and out-patient clinics. This gives us the flexibility to utilize techniques that yield the best results for each condition.

For example, our Personality Disorder Unit utilizes Dialectical Behavioral Therapy while our Women's and Mood Disorders Units utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

An innovative Eating Disorders Unit, known as The Outlook provides separate housing for six adolescents and 11 adults.  Nurses and nutritionists collaborate with the patients to integrate hands-on food preparation, meal planning and meal portioning into their treatment.  Patients are permitted to go out with their families to restaurants as they progress.  The unit has an intensive medical focus in addition to behavioral therapies.

The Horizon is home to a clinical track dedicated to the treatment of Orthodox Jewish patients.

The Haven provides a discreet approach to the treatment of individuals needing inpatient psychiatric care and desiring additional amenities.

Our state-of-the-art unit for mature adults opened in April 2013 and a new, more spacious teen-friendly unit for our adolescent patients opened in December 2013.

And let's not forget the NewYork-Presbyterian Center for Autism and the Developing Brain (CADB). This breakthrough program opened up in June 2013. The center blends state-of-the-art technologies with comprehensive care planning to address the pressing clinical needs of individuals living with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disorders of the brain. The Institute collaborates with the New York Center for Autism and is affiliated with both Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Read more: http://nyp.org/services/center-autism-developing-brain.html


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Second Chance Program
The Westchester Division is home to the lauded Second Chance Program for former state hospital patients many of whom have spent their entire lives in state-run facilities. We have expanded this program to include treatment refractory, chronically ill patients referred from within our own hospital system who have had multiple inpatient hospitalizations over the years. Utilizing an intensive social learning program coupled with a token economy behavioral therapy system, over 80% of these patients return to their communities instead of a state institution.

More About the Second Chance Program

Continuous Learning
NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester Division is a top teaching hospital. Join us to collaborate with nurse leaders, advanced practice nurses and renowned psychiatrists. Together, we support leading-edge practices for patients that utilize the best in nursing, social work, psychosocial rehabilitation, psychology and psychiatry. Milieu Improvement education and practices reduce seclusion, with the goal of eliminating restraints.

To mentor our new graduate nurses, we spearhead initiatives such as the Preceptor Program and and our Nurse Residency Program. Through our Nurses As Partners (NAP) project at the Westchester Division, we commit to mentoring student nurse externs. These externs are mentored from their senior year through their first year as a staff nurse. We make that long-term commitment.

Multidisciplinary Grand Rounds at the Westchester Campus occur weekly and include an annual nursing Grand Rounds.  We also have an annual research symposium that nurses at all sites are invited to attend. In addition, we have monthly Psychiatric Nursing Grand Rounds with other hospital sites via videoconferences.

Outstanding Research

Study: The Use of Aromatherapy to Enhance Sleep in the Addiction Recovery Patient

We actively contribute in Nursing Research Symposiums at NewYork-Presbyterian. For example, a nursing research project at NYP/Westchester studied the use of aromatherapy as a sleep aid for chemically addicted patients. Our purpose? To discover whether the essential oil Lavender enhances sleep hours or sleep quality in patients. The results? The quality of sleep reported by patients during weeks of aromatherapy improved. Conclusions? The findings are encouraging. Since lavender aromatherapy presents minimal risk to patients, it would be reasonable to add as a complement to other sleep-related interventions.

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Prerequisites for Psychiatric Nursing

  • Clinical Nurses—experienced and new graduates: :
  • Bachelor's of Science in Nursing preferred
  • If hired, certification as a Generalist in Psychiatric Nursing is encouraged after two years of practice
  • Current NYS license as an RN

  • Nurse Leaders—experienced:
  • Master's of Science or higher with Certification preferred
  • Current NYS license as an RN

  • Advanced Practice RNs—experienced:
  • (FNPs, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners, and Clinical Nurse Specialists):
  • Master's of Science or higher and National Certification
  • Current NYS license as an RN

Education and Training
Benefits include generous tuition reimbursement for nursing courses, paid continuing education (CE) days each year and reimbursement for education for staff nurses. All sites are also accredited CE providersoffering an impressive schedule of seminars that explore the frontiers of psychiatric nursing.

Other Unique Factors:

Nurses find numerous opportunities for volunteering and community/global outreach, such as our fundraisers for Autism Speaks, NAMI, and the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk. In addition, many nurses speak locally about nursing as a career and about mental health topics in the community.

In 2012, our Westchester campus joined Westchester County's “Green Business Challenge,” a program that encourages companies in the area to voluntarily “green” their operations and reduce energy emissions.

For surrounding communities, we also offer:

  • Hospital-based community seminars.
  • Our annual Mental Health Fair for local community members.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Depressive and Bipolar Support Alliance and Alcoholics Anonymous support meetings held weekly in our facility.
  • Our Resource Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester Division, with educational materials for patients, staff, families and community members.
  • Our Pastoral Care and Education program, where nurses participate on the committee alongside our chaplain and community clergy.

  • We consistently rank in the top five hospitals in the nation for psychiatry in the annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey conducted by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Annual Excellence Awards Ceremonies for Clinical Excellence for Nurses and Nursing Support Staff are held across all campuses
  • Annual Physician of the Year Award Ceremonies sponsored by the Nursing Department for physicians who exemplify collegiality, collaboration, and contributions to nursing practice are held across all campuses
  • We have a finalist or winner in the Nursing Spectrum Nursing Excellence Awards nearly every year.
  • Each year psychiatric nurses at our Westchester campus receive the DAISY award for extraordinary nursing.

One of the most famous books in psychiatric nursing, The Quiet Room: A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness, was inspired by author Lori Schiller’s real-life stay at NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester Division. It’s read widely in nursing schools and considered one of the most harrowing first-person accounts of psychiatric recovery. This book has changed lives, inspired careers and dispelled biases surrounding mental health. It was born of the author’s personal victory, achieved significantly through the care and treatment by our nurses and colleagues at NewYork-Presbyterian.

Book Chapter: Inpatient Psychiatric Nursing (2012)—Five of our nurses contributed a chapter, “The patient who is suicidal” to the book, Inpatient psychiatric nursing:  Clinical strategies and practical interventions. This book, edited by Linda Damon, Joanne Matthew, Judy Sheeha, and Lisa Uebelacker, won the 2012 AJN Book of the Year Award for Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing.

Our authors were:  Linda Espinosa, MS, RN, Angela Macera, MBA, BSN, RN, Beth Harris, MA, RN, PMHCNS-BC, Barbara-Ann Bybel, MSN, RN, DHA, PMHNP-BC, NEA-BC, Judith Giorgi-Cipriano, MSN, RN and Julie Armstrong-Muth, MS, RN, CNA, BC


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