Many facilities hire inexperienced workers who must complete a minimum of 75 hours of mandatory training and pass a competency evaluation program within 4 months of their employment.
Aides who complete the program are certified and placed on the State registry of nursing aides. Psychiatric aides usually receive on-the-job training, which averages from six to eight weeks. Under the direction of registered nurses or licensed practical nurses, trainees learn to take and record temperatures, bathe patients, change linen on beds with a patient in them, and move and lift clients. They get instruction in interpersonal relationships, group dynamics, and socialization techniques to help them work with mentally ill or developmentally disabled persons.
Some employers also provide classroom instruction for newly hired aides. High school courses in health, biology, chemistry, and English are helpful. Some high schools offer health care courses or nurse assistant training in conjunction with local hospitals. Nurse assistant training is also offered in vocational- technical centers, some nursing care facilities, and some community colleges. Courses cover body mechanics, nutrition, anatomy and physiology, infection control, communication skills, resident rights, and personal care skills, such as how to help patients bathe, eat, and groom.
Continuing education has become a major part of the health care field. Psychiatric aides must attend workshops, lectures, and other in-service instruction sessions to learn new techniques or to update skills.
Psychiatric aides aides must also be in good health. A physical examination, including stateregulated tests such as those for tuberculosis, may be required.
Changes in funding for mental health programs may also create difficult work conditions. Many psychiatric aides find a changing staff, and added duties stressful. Despite these difficulties, however, the job can be very rewarding. For many, assisting those in need is extremely gratifying.