It’s been estimated that up to one in three people may suffer from some sort of mental illness at some time in their lives. Mental health nurses can help sufferers face up to their problems by assessing and treating various conditions including diseases, addictions, neuroses, psychoses and personality disorders.
Most work directly for the NHS but there are also roles available in the private health sector and some care and nursing homes. Some Registered Mental Health Nurses (RMNs) may also be seconded to environments like prisons while still technically working for the NHS.
Skills and qualifications
A registered mental health nurse is a qualified nurse who studied the branch of nursing with the same name for either two or three years depending on their course requirements. Both the academic portion of their course and their practical placements will have placed an emphasis on the mental health side of the field. They are required to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) before they are allowed to practice.
A mental health nurse is required to have strong interpersonal and communication skills. They will often be one of the first healthcare professionals that a distressed patient contacts or is referred to. They may also end up spending a lot of time with individual patients. It is important that they are able to quickly and accurately assess a situation and, if possible, build a rapport with the patient; especially if the patient is exhibiting signs of anxiety, distress or hostility.
Community mental health nursing jobs
Most people with mental wellbeing problems are cared for in the community rather than a hospital. Some mental health nursing jobs involve working as part of a community care team, alongside other professionals such as GPs and social workers.
Positions may be based in community healthcare centres, hostels, day centres or specialist units such as rehabilitation clinics. Community based nurses will still have to deal with a wide array of conditions but the patients they deal with regularly may have less severe problems than those in a hospital setting.
There are many different mental health nursing jobs based in hospital settings that may range from a regular out-patients department or open ward to a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).
An in-patient setting tends to be acute, meaning that a patient is there for short-term treatment – usually to stabilise a condition before the normal course of therapy can resume or to assess a new patient before a long-term care plan is implemented.
Nurses working in an acute environment may sometimes be at risk of violence and may need to learn how to restrain a patient safely.
Roles in Care Homes
Mental health nurses working at residential care homes for the elderly will often have to deal with dementia sufferers. The symptoms of the illness may be light or severe or they may vary from one day to the next, depending on the patient. Those working in these positions will need to exhibit patience and understanding as well as being able to assess and monitor the condition.
Other types of residential care and nursing homes may require different skills. Care homes may cater to people with physical disabilities, learning difficulties, addictions and illnesses of various kinds. Not all care homes require RMNs on a permanent basis and the exact requirement may vary depending on the needs of the residents.