Becoming a mental health nurse requires certain personal qualities. You will be patient, compassionate and sensitive enough to identify the unique needs of patients and plan appropriate treatment programmes for them.
Mental health nursing concentrates on helping people to make positive changes and supporting their journey of recovery.
Here at City, University of London, we prepare you for working life as a mental health nurse. You will graduate with outstanding employment prospects and a clear route to your first job.
What can I expect from a career as a mental health nurse?
It is important to have a clear picture of what will be expected of you as a mental health nurse.
You will provide support to people living with different mental health conditions. This can mean helping someone recover from illness or accepting a condition in order to lead a positive life.
Specialisms include working with certain groups, such as children or older people, or in an area such as eating disorders. You will often collaborate with health professionals like psychiatrists, occupational therapists, or social workers.
Today most mental healthcare is community-based, with a number of functions offered by social care or healthcare assistants.
You can work in:
- patients’ homes
- community healthcare centres
- hospital outpatients departments
- specialist units
- secure residential units.
Achieving a positive work/life balance can be challenging because of the personal commitment and working patterns demanded.
You may also face the risk of violence which is associated with some mental health conditions, but you will be taught ways of preventing such situations and relieving tension.
Your patience is likely to be tested to the extreme, but witnessing small positive changes in an individual over their journey of recovery can be amazingly rewarding.
As a mental health nurse, you will:
- Speak with patients and discuss the best way to deliver their care
- Build constructive patient relationships that encourage trust
- Correctly administer medication and monitor the results
- Calmly respond to distressed patients and try to understand them
- Practise de-escalation techniques to help patients manage emotions
- Maintain patient records, care plans and risk assessments.
Placements will help you develop the skills needed by mental health nurses. These include listening and communication, judgement, counselling, teaching and advising.
Interpersonal skills are vital because there will be times when you have to reassure or advise patients and their relatives or carers in emotional situations.
Related courses at City
Whatever your level of interest in becoming a mental health nurse, City's courses can help you take one step closer to a career as a mental health nurse, develop specialisms that'll set you apart from the field or broaden your horizons with study in related subjects.
- BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing
- MSc Adult and Mental Health Nursing (pre-registration)
- MSc Child and Adolescent Mental Health
Who can I work for as a mental health nurse?
Most mental health nurses in the UK are employed by the National Health Service (NHS) and most are based in the community. Work is also conducted in secure mental health hospitals and prisons.
Employers outside the NHS include large private healthcare organisations such as BUPA and the General Healthcare Group, mental health charities and the armed forces.
You can find work throughout the UK, most easily in large towns and cities. Skills shortages are sometimes experienced in certain specialities including child and adolescent mental health services and inpatient services.
Our nursing degrees at City are approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). This means you can register with the NMC after graduating and obtain an internationally accepted qualification allowing you to work across the world.
What about mental health nursing work experience?
Relevant work experience is always useful when applying for courses or jobs and mental health nursing is no different. It helps to demonstrate your dedication to the profession.
You may seek community work experience or voluntary work experience in a hospital or mental health charity. Any experience of caring for others may help.
Course placements offer practical experience and the chance to develop skills. But proactively finding additional opportunities to gain knowledge and hone skills will also reflect well on your commitment to the vocation.
Visiting community centres or attending relevant events can be a good way of gaining information and shaping your ideas.
What are my prospects as a mental health nurse?
Skills shortages in London and across the UK mean you are likely to be in high demand and have great prospects as a mental health nurse.
Your career as a mental health nurse can develop in many directions, but usually involves developing a specialism. You might find yourself moving towards an area such as forensic psychology, alcohol or substance misuse or working with offenders.
Or you might be drawn to a more educational role where you can lecture, mentor or research while still delivering care.
You can progress to managerial or consultant positions in hospitals or private healthcare companies, which may create opportunities to specialise. Such positions will probably require further qualifications.