Psychiatrists are primary care physicians who diagnose, treat and help prevent mental disorders. They tailor a combination of personal counselling, group counselling, psychoanalysis, medication and hospitalisation to each individual.
Psychiatrists help patients find solutions to problems through changes in perspective, behaviour and analysis of past experiences. As medical doctors, psychiatrists may also prescribe medication to alleviate chemical imbalances that cause some mental illnesses.
Duties and responsibilities
- Collect and maintain all patient information and records
- Interview patient, relatives and other professionals for relevant medical and social history
- Conduct or order diagnostic tests on patient for more information on physical and mental health
- Evaluate records and test results, diagnose conditions, and develop an individual treatment plan
- Meet regularly with patients or outpatients for counselling, group therapy or psychoanalysis sessions
- Instruct patients on relationship skills and perspective and behaviour modifications to aid problem-solving
- Address patient's questions and concerns during regular or emergency visits
- Advise guardians, significant others, relatives and other caregivers on patient's treatment plan
- Collaborate with physicians, social workers and other professionals on treatment course and progress
- Prescribe medication to alleviate chemical imbalances causing mood disorders or mental illness
- Attend conferences and continuing education classes to keep up with new treatments and techniques
- Conduct research, publish findings and teach courses to share knowledge of successful tactics
- Compose and submit case reports to government or mental health agencies as required
- Review and report on the treatment plans and outcomes of other psychiatrists and medical staff
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
On call for emergencies
Psychiatrists typically work full time in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, clinics and government institutions. Those working in private practice may have more typical business hours. Psychiatrists in 24-hour environments often must work evenings or weekends.
Many psychiatrists are on call for patient emergencies. You may need to address a patient's concerns by phone or through a visit to a hospital or other medical institution.
Working with patients with mental disorders can be emotionally draining. Some patients may also pose a physical danger to themselves and others. Following strict safety protocols helps prevent dangerous situations.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
MD or DO degree
Psychiatrists must earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. Students typically begin with a bachelor's degree in psychiatry or other science-related degree, but any subject can be accepted. Your medical school coursework will cover both general medicine and psychiatry subjects.
After earning a four-year medical degree, aspiring psychiatrists must apply for a residency programme. First-year residents work in a hospital setting caring for patients with all manner of medical illnesses. The next three years provide experience in research, diagnosis and treatment of mental health. Those pursuing a specialty within psychiatry may spend additional years in residency.
Psychiatrists must be licensed to practise medicine. The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) offers an index of state licensing boards on its website. For prescribing medication, you'll also need a federal narcotics licence and registration number from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Certification and continuing education are also typically required for psychiatrists. The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) offers a list of accredited programmes. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) offer additional certification and continuing education opportunities.
Psychiatrists may find job advancement opportunities by becoming board-certified in a subspecialty like child psychiatry or addictions psychiatry. Becoming an expert in the field can lead to additional career avenues like research, publishing and consulting.
Extensive experience can also lead to a challenging and lucrative role as a medical director, overseeing other psychiatrists.