A psychiatric aide provides direct care and supervision to patients who suffer from mental disorders. Under the direction of therapists and nurses, an aide ensures that clients maintain personal hygiene, eat regularly, get exercise, and attend appointments. Aides also act as companions to patients, engaging them in conversation and participating in recreational activities. Professionals are employed in many settings, including assisted living facilities, inpatient psychiatric wards, hospitals, and rehabilitation clinics.
The primary responsibility of a psychiatric aide is to ensure the safety of patients in a mental health care setting. In large facilities, an aide may be accountable for a dozen or more patients during a shift. He or she needs to study patient files and learn about each clients' habits and conditions in order to provide the best possible care. Getting to know clients is important so an aide can recognize and report unusual behaviors.
Depending on the work setting, a psychiatric aide might be responsible for dressing, bathing, and feeding clients. In facilities where residents are able to handle personal tasks independently, aides focus more on keeping them on task and providing company. An aide might play games with clients, take them on outings, and supervise visitation sessions.
Since hospitals and inpatient wards operate around-the-clock, a psychiatric aide may be scheduled to work day, evening, night, or weekend shifts. It is important for an aide to understand clients' routines to know what they need to do during a given shift. While daytime workers typically spend most of their time working directly with clients, an overnight aide might be responsible for occasional check-ins on sleeping residents and managing paperwork. Experienced, skilled aides are usually given their choice of shifts depending on their personal preferences.
The requirements to become a psychiatric aide vary between regions and employers, but most workers hold high school diplomas and complete an extensive period of classroom training before working directly with clients. Training courses provide new aides with a thorough understanding of mental disorders and the patient types they will encounter. Trainees learn how to identify warning signs that a client may be under physical or mental distress, and what to do in such a situation. In settings where patients may become violent, trainees participate in workshops to learn how to safely restrain out-of-control residents.
Some psychiatric aides take additional training courses and certification exams to become qualified to perform basic nursing services. With the appropriate credentials, a psychiatric aide may administer medication, perform regular blood pressure and pulse tests, and provide first aid if necessary. Following classroom training, a new psychiatric aide typically gains on-the-job skills by working with experienced aides and nurses.