Psychiatric aides assist psychiatrists, psychologist, psychiatric nurses, social workers, and therapists in caring for mentally impaired or emotionally disturbed people. They assist patients with many activities, from eating to dressing to bathing. Beyond this, they also interact socially with the patients, play games with them, and lead groups of patients in recreational activities. They may supervise sports activities and accompany groups of patients on field trips. They report observations of patients to their professional supervisors. Because of the amount of time they spend with patients, they may well have a large influence on treatment.
Besides having a strong desire to help people, psychiatric aides need to be compassionate, tactful, and understanding. They should be willing to perform repetitive tasks, have good interpersonal communication skills, and be able to work in a team. They also need to be in good health, as some States require tests for tuberculosis and other diseases.
In 2002, home health aides earned a median hourly wage of $11.04. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10 percent, who earned less than $7.52, and the highest 10 percent, who earned more than $16.16. The highest hourly wage was found in the State government, and the lowest was found in general medical and surgical hospitals.
Training and Education
Often it is not necessary to have a high school diploma or previous work experience to obtain a job as a psychiatric aide. In some States, psychiatric aides are required to complete a formal training program. Some employers offer formal instruction for recently hired aides, while others may provide on-the-job training from a more experienced aide. Over time, aides may complete inservice training or attend workshops and lectures to advance their knowledge of the field.
Out of the nearly 2 million nursing, psychiatric, and home health aide jobs in 2002, about 59,000 million people were employed as home health aides, the lowest number in the category.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of home health aides is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Factors such as the growing elderly population, a reduced stigma associated with mental health care, and growing acceptance of substance abuse treatment will keep the number of jobs growing at a steady pace. However, employment in hospitals, where more than half of psychiatric aides work, will grow more slowly than the average as a result of limited inpatient psychiatric treatment.