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Mental health nursing – a career snapshot

While it can be demanding and challenging, a job in mental health nursing can also be very rewarding. We thought we'd take a brief look at what the role entails and how you go about making a career in this vital area of nursing practice.

What is the role of a mental health nurse?

Psychiatric nurses
work with people who have a range of mental health issues, supporting their recovery or enabling them to have more control over their condition. You might work with patients from any section of society, from children to the elderly, as well as their carers and families. You'll collaborate with psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and health visitors. You might also be part of a multi-disciplinary team, including allied health professionals, such as occupational therapists.

Where do mental health nurses work?

Psychiatric nurses work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, community healthcare centres, GP practices, prisons, residential centres and patients' own homes.
What specialisations are available?

You could specialise in areas such as children and young people (CAMHS), older adults, women, offenders, alcohol or substance misuse, forensic psychology or psychotherapeutic interventions such as talking therapies.

How do you become a mental health nurse?

To work as a registered mental health nurse (RMN), you will need a degree in mental health nursing and current registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). If you already have a health-related degree, you may be able to join a mental health nursing degree course in its second year. If you're an experienced healthcare assistant or mental health support worker, you may be able to study part-time while working.

Are mental health nursing apprenticeships available?

Nursing degree apprenticeships are due to be launched in September 2017. Find out more here.

What are the key skills need to be a mental health nurse?

The role of an RMN nurse is more focused on interpersonal and communication skills than that of a registered general nurse (RGN). Other key attributes include: excellent observation skills, empathy, self-confidence, calmness under pressure, assertiveness, good judgement and problem-solving ability.

What about career development?

Once you are qualified as a mental health nurse, you need to be committed to keeping your skills and knowledge up to date. To maintain your NMC registration, you'll need to go through the process of revalidation every three years. As you gain more experience, you may be able to apply to become a nurse consultant, taking on additional responsibilities.

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