If you consider yourself highly empathetic, adaptable, and patient, crisis nursing might be the right field for you. This ever-growing nursing niche involves administering care to patients experiencing issues with mental health, substance abuse, trauma and co-occurring disorders. Each day, crisis nurses hop into action to help de-escalate and diffuse crisis situations while providing essential medical care, proving that some heroes wear scrubs, not capes. But we already knew that!
Before you determine whether this is the right nursing job for you, you want to figure out what crisis nursing is all about and do a deep dive into some of the things these patient professionals do daily. Read information on crisis nursing and discover some of the key skills, traits, and qualifications below to help you determine if you should become a crisis nurse.
What Is a Crisis Nurse?
To put it simply, crisis nurses work in situations of emotional turbulence and disturbance, such as when a person is depressed, suicidal, grieving, or displaced from their home. Additionally, crisis nurses are often asked to travel to provide care after natural disasters and health care emergencies, such as during a particularly destructive hurricane or during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These nurses are adaptable enough to fit in where needed and can help address some of the unique challenges of patients suffering through a crisis, from grief and suicidal thoughts to traumas such as job loss and homelessness. Like standard travel nursing assignments, crisis nursing jobs typically last for 13 weeks, but they can be anywhere from eight and 26 weeks long, depending on the specific needs of the area.
Yes, It Pays More
So does crisis nursing come with a monetary incentive? Yep! Because of their willingness to adapt, travel, and work in turbulent situations, crisis nurses earn a higher salary than nurses who work in non-crisis environments. In fact, many nurses in these roles earn something called a “crisis rate” or “crisis pay” which can be up to $20 more per hour than the standard rate for the hospital.
This makes crisis nurses among the highest-paid nurses. But higher pay doesn’t automatically mean a better situation. As we learned from the measurable spike in nurse burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic, crisis environments can take a serious toll on health care professionals. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re willing to hop in where needed and know how to manage feelings of burnout, the additional pay may be worthwhile.
How Do You Become a Crisis Nurse?
The required qualifications of crisis nursing vary widely from one system to the next, but all employers require you to start out by obtaining your registered nurse (RN) degree and license through an accredited nursing program. From there, you may be required to complete at least a year of related work experience in a role within psychiatric, addiction, or mental health. You’ll also want to prepare yourself for the potential of periodically relocating and how that could affect your personal life and housing.
All RNs know that even non-crisis nurses occasionally face crises in virtually every health care environment. It just comes with the territory of working in medicine and no one should become a nurse without understanding that. With that being said, crisis nurses are specially trained in things such as de-escalation, passive non-compliance, and trauma-informed care. Some of the key personality traits required for these skill sets include:
- The willingness to be ready for anything. Because of the aforementioned crisis pay, these kinds of nursing positions are highly competitive and get snatched up quickly. One of the key characteristics of a successful crisis nurse is his or her ability to drop everything and spring into action to fill a vacancy.
- Empathy. Crisis nurses can’t just be in it for the money. They have to be willing to relate to what patients and their families are going through in order to provide adequate care. Empathy is key for nurses because it helps them build trust with patients and in turn strengthens communication, which is extremely critical during those essential crisis moments.
- Interpersonal skills. Knowing how to communicate with others—especially those who are in states of crises—is crucial to helping people in these scenarios because it helps with de-escalation, motivation, and understanding key indicators of broader issues. Plus, like having empathy, it helps patients and their family members trust you so that you can provide adequate care.
- Physical fortitude. All nurses need to be able stay on their feet—and their toes—for long shifts, but a good pair of comfortable nursing clogs are designed to help those working in crisis scenarios. This field puts nurses in the most demanding and busy workplaces, so physical endurance is key.
- Adaptability. One of the many things we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is that health care systems require extremely flexible and adaptable staff during crisis situations. For example, as many individuals opted out of elective surgery, the demand for critical care nursing grew and nurses had to hop into the chaos wherever they were needed.
- Good judgment. Things move fast in crisis scenarios, and providing successful patient care requires nurses who are able to think critically on their toes, making good decisions along the way. They need to know how to respond and when to bring in additional resources.
- The willingness to support your coworkers. Being a team player is absolutely essential in crisis nursing when things are changing rapidly and there isn’t always enough support. The willingness to dive right in and assist where needed is especially important in situations where you’re brand-new to the environment and your coworkers may not automatically be comfortable leaning on you.
You already know that our communities are facing a large, looming nursing shortage, and it’s likely that the shortage will involve a lack of nurses trained in crisis and trauma. For nurses who want to work directly with the community and make a measurable difference in their patients’ lives each day, crisis nursing is a fantastic opportunity!