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A Guide to a Career as a Mental Health Nurse
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How can I be a mental health nurse?

If you’re considering any career within nursing, read our guide to a career as a Mental Health Nurse.

Mental health nursing is a challenging yet rewarding career choice. Are you interested in working a job making a difference and closely supporting patient recovery? Or are you searching to know more about the qualifications, training and skill it takes to fill a mental health nursing role? Our Guide to a Career as a Mental Health Nurse will be of great value to you.

Why Choose Mental Health Nursing?

The career of a mental health nurse is very flexible, with excellent employment prospects. 94% of students who finish a nursing degree receive a job after six months, according to the NHS website. Unlike many other careers, being a nurse also means that you have a guaranteed job for life. Duties can include ensuring that patients take the correct medication, working alongside a secure transport service, advising patients on therapies relevant to their condition, and guiding people through social activities. A naturally calm and friendly temperament is ideal for anybody considering a career as a mental health nurse. Helping people back to mental health is just as valuable as caring for those with physical illness.

Where Will You Work?

Mental health nurses are most often based within hospitals, where the majority of mental healthcare services are offered. When working at a hospital, you may be positioned in a psychiatric intensive care unit, a psychiatric ward, an outpatients unit or a specialist unit dealing with eating disorders. Though most work within the hospital, mental health nurses can find a career with community positions too. When performing a community role, you may be employed at a GP surgery, a prison, a residential ward, a community health care centre, or even in patients’ homes. Additional safeguarding training will be necessary for work carried out in patients’ homes, but there are many benefits to providing service where your patients are most comfortable. Children particularly may feel more inclined to talk to you in a familiar environment.

What Training Will You Need?

To be a mental health nurse, you require a degree. Nursing degree apprenticeships are an option, but not necessary as the course can be studied as a subject alone. Once you’re in the mental health nurse job role, you will be trained in the legal context of your work and taught how to identify when patients may be at risk of hurting themselves or others. You also must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which is the regulatory body in the UK that determines whether you can legally operate as a nurse or midwife. For more specialised roles, such as if you decide to work in prison, there is likely to be further workplace training in the types of illnesses you may have to assist with, such as PTSD and more aggressive disorders.

Where Can The Role Lead?

Once you are qualified as a mental health nurse, you are free to specialise within your career. You may decide to specifically work with children, or specifically with drug addicts and alcoholics. Becoming a nurse leader is also an excellent way to progress down the route of mental health nursing. Beginning to lead and develop services in mental healthcare within the hospital, as well as training and leading nurses on a ward, would be the next step up in responsibility. The NHS leadership academy is excellent for further training nurses up for roles with higher responsibility.

A career in mental health nursing is fulfilling, challenging and rewarding, but comes alongside a great deal of job security and opportunity to make a difference. If you’re personable, inclined to try and help others and naturally patient, you may be a perfect fit for a mental health nurse role.

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