Mental health nurse: job description

Mental health nurses are responsible for planning and providing support and medical and nursing care to people in hospital, at home or in other settings who are suffering from mental ill health.
Nursing students are eligible for NHS funding, some of which may be means-tested.

What does a mental health nurse do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Mental health nurses work as part of a team of professional and medical staff that includes doctors, social workers, therapists and psychiatrists.

Typical duties of the job include:

  • assessing and planning nursing care requirements
  • organising workloads
  • visiting patients at home
  • building relationships with, reassuring, listening and talking to patients
  • combating stigma and helping patients and their families deal with it
  • administering medication
  • agreeing and reviewing care plans and monitoring progress
  • giving advice and arranging support for patients, relatives and carers
  • liaising with doctors, social workers and other professionals
  • assessing treatment success at case conferences and meetings
  • writing and updating patient records.

Shift work or on-call rotas can sometimes be part the job.

Typical employers of mental health nurses

  • The National Health Service (NHS)
  • General, psychiatric and secure hospitals
  • Residential and nursing homes
  • Community and rehabilitation units
  • Special units within prisons

Advertisements appear in newspapers, NHS trusts/local council jobs lists, and publications such as Nursing Times, Nursing Standard, Health Service Journal, British Medical Journal and their respective websites. Previous relevant experience is not essential, but any gained caring for people can be helpful.

Qualifications and training required

Qualification necessitates undertaking a three-year diploma course or a three to four-year degree course. Graduates with a degree in a relevant subject such as life, health, biological or social sciences can qualify via a shortened two-year postgraduate diploma course.

Applications for diplomas and undergraduate degree courses should be made through UCAS; those for shortened postgraduate courses should be made directly to the relevant institutions. You'll need to apply about a year in advance of the course commencing.

Key skills for mental health nurses

  • Good health and fitness
  • The ability to empathise with people
  • Good understanding of the theories of mental health and illness
  • Excellent teamwork skills
  • Verbal/written communication skills
  • Resilience
  • Stamina