This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
If you’re a college student looking toward the psychiatry career path, you may be curious about what types of duties you may be partaking in if you do go that route. After all, psychiatrists are medical doctors and have to go through 12 years of schooling before they can be allowed to practice.
Choosing a major can be stressful, especially when the major you pick will take a long time to complete. After all, it’s harder to change your mind if you’re already four years into the course and have a bachelor’s degree in something you don’t want to use.
Read on to learn if the psychiatry major is right for you.
Prescribing Mental Health Medication
The primary duty of a psychiatrist is to prescribe mental health medication to patients. Since psychiatrists are medical doctors, they can also prescribe any other type of medication like a regular doctor.
However, these doctors are skilled professionals in the field of psychology and medicine, which means they usually only work with those looking for specific medication to treat psychological symptoms.
Outside of prescribing medication, psychiatrists will have to meet with their patients on a regular basis to refill medication, monitor side effects, and discuss changes in mental and physical health since taking a new medication.
Brief Medical Examinations
You may have to perform brief medical examinations that nurses would perform, such as taking vitals and checking the body for signs of a rash. Since some medications have potentially dangerous side effects, a psychiatrist will be on the lookout for signs and will help the patient taper off the medication if required.
Since tapering off medication can also be dangerous and cause side effects, a psychiatrist will talk with the patient about how this might affect them and what to do in case of an emergency withdrawal.
Psychological Notes and Charting
On top of the medication management of patients, the psychiatrist will also take notes and keep a neat record of patient files. Some psychiatrists have an assistant, or office clerk do the filing for them. They can also opt-in for completely digital patient files. However, they must be confidentially stored.
Notes on the client should include:
- Their active and discontinued prescriptions
- Their vitals
- Their personal information
- Notes from each session
- Important side effects
- Patient-reported changes in mood
Brief Therapeutic Care
Some psychiatrists do offer brief therapy to their patients, or full therapy sessions, for an additional cost. Since psychiatrists do go through training for psychology, they are permitted to practice therapy and act as an expert in psychology as well.
However, many psychiatrists choose to only prescribe medication and monitor symptoms, and they often refer patients outside of them to a therapist or counselor.
As we’ve mentioned, psychiatrists will sometimes refer their patients outside of the practice. If there is a medical issue not in the realm of psychology or psychiatry, they’ll likely refer the patient to a hospital or primary care physician for a follow-up.
Diagnosis and Diagnostic Testing
Some psychiatrists also have experience/training in diagnostic testing and clinical diagnostics. Psychiatrists will need to apply a diagnosis label to all patients before subscribing to medication, as there must be a reason for the medication to be taken.
They work out of the DSM’s most recent published manual and utilize standardized approved psychological tests in several formats, depending on preference and client.
If you’d like to learn more about what psychiatrists do before you decide on your major, you can read more on BetterHelp’s blog today!