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Can I continue to work as a mental health technician until I find a nursing job even though I now hold an RN license?



Dear Donna,

I recently became licensed as an RN. I have been working as a mental health technician, not certified or licensed. Can I continue to work in this capacity until I find a nursing job even though I now hold an RN license?

New RN

Dear Donna replies:

Dear New RN,

Congrats on getting your RN license. You can work as a mental health technician but understand you will be held liable as an RN even while working in another healthcare role. This becomes an issue if a problem with care arises. Some employers also will not use RNs in lesser roles for this reason but others will. It is not an ideal scenario, but there are many RNs like you who continue in their tech or nursing assistant role until they find an RN position. This only should be a
short-term measure.

You must aggressively pursue RN employment even if you have to switch employers and specialties. The longer you do not practice as an RN once you are out of school, the harder it may be to get an RN job. You may start to lose your confidence in working as a nurse.

Read “Success strategies for students” ( for tips and advice to land your first RN role. If you have any interest in staying in the mental health field, start attending local chapter meetings of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association as a guest for now. Face- to-face networking is a great way to find a job.

Also read a previous Dear Nancy column where’s legal information columnist Nancy Brent RN, MS, JD addresses the legalities of this situation in more detail: (

Best wishes,



About Author

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at and, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://www.

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