On the Job
Psychiatrists diagnose and treat people who have mental illnesses.
An unidentified person once said, "A psychiatrist has to be a person who commits himself to making a person better. Nothing should be too menial for a psychiatrist to do." These words speak to the importance of a psychiatrist's work.Psychiatrists help patients deal with mental illnesses such as substance abuse, anxiety disorders, or depression. Some mental illnesses have a biological cause, such as a lack of the proper chemicals in the brain. Other mental illnesses are caused by an event, such as the death of a loved one. Psychiatrists differ from psychologists and doctors because they have both medical and psychological training. Thus, they can prescribe drugs when necessary, but also know how to counsel patients.
When psychiatrists get new patients, they begin by gathering information about them. They meet with patients and ask them about their current and any previous mental health problems. They review the patient's medical history and family background to look for a biological cause of the problem. Psychiatrists may talk with family members to learn more about the patient's life. In addition, they may consult with other mental health specialists who have worked with the patient. Psychiatrists may use lab tests to help make a diagnosis.
After analyzing patients' health and examining their mental state, psychiatrists make a treatment plan. They treat mental illness in many ways. Psychotherapists talk about issues with patients to help solve problems. Some psychiatrists prescribe medications. Other psychiatrists use a combination of talk and drug therapy. In some cases, psychiatrists admit patients to hospitals.
Psychiatrists periodically meet with patients to make sure the medication is working properly. They may also talk with family members about the patient's condition. When treatments are not working, psychiatrists adjust the plan.
Psychiatrists keep detailed records about patients. They refer to these records when writing reports for insurance companies. Psychiatrists read articles about new treatment options and take classes to learn new skills. Sometimes they do research and write articles for journals. Some psychiatrists teach or supervise students.
Some psychiatrists specialize in treating patients of a certain age group. Child and adolescent psychiatrists work with children or teenagers and their families. They may use play therapy to help children. Other psychiatrists specialize in the elderly. Industrial psychiatrists help businesses deal with problems, such as violence or drugs in the work place. Forensic psychiatrists testify in court on the mental state of people.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Analyze data to diagnose illness.
- Provide treatments such as psychotherapy or medications. May conduct diagnostic tests.
- Consult with other health care providers.
- Counsel patients during office visits.
- Meet with patients to gather background information.
- Talk with family members and other mental health specialists to get additional information.
- Examine medical and family history.
- Prescribe treatment for patients.
- Order lab tests to help make the diagnoses.
- Advise family members about patients' condition.
- Change treatment program as needed.
- May conduct research and publish results.
- May teach in medical school.
- Participate on committees to promote community health services.
- Keep detailed records on patients.
- May admit patients to the hospital.
- Take classes to update skills.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Assist and care for others.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Document and record information.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Provide advice and consultation to others.
- Analyze data or information.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Resolve conflicts and negotiate with others.
- Develop and build teams.
- Work with the public.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Coach others.
- Process information.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Teach others.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of social interaction. They work closely with patients and other health care providers.
- Often deal with patients who are unpleasant or angry.
- Are often placed in conflict situations with patients.
- Often deal with physical aggression from violent patients.
- Are responsible for work outcomes.
- Are responsible for the health and safety of patients and the public.
- Communicate with coworkers daily by telephone, e-mail, or in person.
- Write letters and memos on a weekly basis.
- Work in a group or as part of a team.
- Always work indoors in clinics, offices, or hospitals.
- Are often exposed to diseases or infections from patients.
- Work near patients, but usually have a few feet of space separating them from others.
- Sometimes are exposed to loud sounds.
- Must be very exact in their work. Errors or omissions could seriously endanger the health and safety of patients.
- Make decisions on a daily basis that strongly impact patients.
- Rarely consult with other mental health specialists before making a decision.
- Are usually able to set their tasks for the day without consulting with a supervisor.
- Are moderately competitive. They may compete with other psychiatrists or institutions.
- Must meet strict deadlines on a weekly basis.
- Repeat the same mental tasks.
- Generally have a set schedule each week.
- Work 40 hours a week.
- May work on-call, which means they are available to work on short notice to handle emergencies.
- May work nights or weekends at hospitals and in-patient clinics.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Sit for long periods of time.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.