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Dr. Ruby Martinez, RN, PhD, CS

Dr. Ruby Martinez, RN, PhD, CS

Dr. Ruby Martinez (left) with a student.

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Psychiatric Nursing: Careers and Education

Can you please provide a brief history of psychiatric nursing and what are important trends in the field?

Nursing as a profession began with the writings and teachings of Florence Nightingale (1860) who formalized the practice of nursing with knowledge about the person in relation to the environment. In 1837, the first psychiatric nurse in the USA was Linda Richards. She believed that people with mental illness should be as well cared for as those with other illness. In the year 1882, psychiatric nursing was introduced into curricula of schools of nursing, mainly focused on nutrition, hygiene, and activity. By 1950, schools were required to have psychiatric nursing in their clinical practice to become certified by accrediting bodies, and in 1973 the American Nurses Association developed the first standards of care for psychiatric nursing. Finally in 1988, psychiatric nurses were certified by the ANCC (mentioned elsewhere), and in the 1990s, psychiatric nurses earned the privilege of prescribing medication for people with mental illnesses. Presently, psychiatric nurses practice in private practice (patient services or consultants), hospitals (direct care, education of staff, clinical liason), community mental health centers, universities and colleges (educators and researchers).

A Day in the Life of a...

Ever wonder what it's like to be a nurse midwife? A nurse with a doctorate? Or a holistic nurse? Find out with our A Day in the Life... series!

Go to class with Assistant Professor-CT and Director of Student Services Dr. Ruby Martinez.

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Who are some of the most important figures in the field of Psychiatric Nursing?

Where I could tell you about well- known psychiatric nurses, I think the most important figures in the field are my mentors, the nurses who pushed my awareness and helped me grow in the field. These fine nurses are Denny Webster, RN, PhD; Diane Igle, RN, MS, and Anne Closson, RN, MS. These nurses made me think about reality and the role that illness plays in our lives.

What are some common myths about Psychiatric Nursing?

I think the film industry has not always been kind to nursing, and especially psychiatric nursing. I think this can be understood when we consider that mental illness is misunderstood and feared in our society. Unfortunately, people with mental illness are usually portrayed as frightening and manipulative, yet are not any more dangerous than the general population. The reality is that everyone is susceptible to mental illness in the right situation, and we are not facing that reality when we fail to treat people with the respect that they deserve. Psychiatric nurses are held to high standards of protecting patient rights, and we work hard to protect their privacy, their dignity and health.


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