Let’s consider what it takes to become a mental health nurse and touch on a wide range of duties that this testing yet ultimately rewarding career can bring.
As a mental health nurse you will support, plan and provide medical and nursing care for people suffering from mental health issues.
These issues include, (but are certainly not limited to) illnesses such as:
- Personality disorders
- Eating disorders
- Addiction issues (most commonly drug or alcohol addiction)
What qualities do you need?
Choosing a career as a mental health nurse is not for the faint-hearted.
You will see patients in various states of deteriorated mental health and need to be able to cope with this.
On the positive side, your contribution, assistance, patience and professional knowledge can really help those with mental health issues vastly improve their quality of life.
Here are some of the major qualities you will need to succeed as a mental nurse:
- A thorough understanding of mental health and illness theories
- Empathy is an absolute must
- Excellent team-working skills
- Solid communication skills – both verbal and written
- Sound health and fitness
There will undoubtedly be times when you are ‘up against it’.
People suffering with mental health issues do not always understand their actions and words and this makes a calm, determined nature a very positive trait for a mental health nurse.
Teamwork in a wide range of settings is essential:
To be a successful mental health nurse you must be a good team worker. You will be part of a professional team that includes doctors, therapists, psychiatrists and social workers.
Your duties will take place in a wide range of settings from people’s homes to hospitals.
Duties will include:
- Assessing and planning of an individual’s care requirements
- Visit patients at home, in hospital, in care and rehabilitation establishments, detention centres and prisons
- Relationship building – You will listen, talk and reassure patients. Where possible you will help both patients and their families to understand, accept and overcome any stigma that comes with mental illness
- Encourage patients to take an active part in therapeutic activities
- Administering medication where necessary
- Advising and supporting patients, carers and relatives
- Managing workloads
- Writing and regularly updating patient records
- Close liaison with other professionals such as doctors and social workers
- The ability to succinctly put over a patients progress (or lack of it) during case meetings
- Regular monitoring of a patients progress, reviewing their care plans and being part of the decision making process for their current and forward care plans
Who would you typically be employed by:
Here are 5 employers that have a real need for qualified, dedicated mental health nurses:
- The NHS
- Hospitals of every description. This includes general hospitals, those specialising in psychiatric treatment and secure hospitals
- Nursing and residential homes – Both public and private sector
- Rehabilitation and community establishments – Both public and private sector
- Specialised units within prisons
Those mental health nurses who choose to work in a hospital could be employed in such areas as intensive psychiatric care units, psychiatric wards, specialist units that have been established to focus of a particular mental health issue or in the outpatient department.
It is often the case that an on-call rota system and/or shift work is part of the employment contract.
A mental health nurse can do people the power of good!
As we mentioned at the beginning of the piece, being a mental health nurse is not for everyone. But, those who fit the profile of this career path will find the results they help achieve extremely rewarding.