Mental health nurse: job description

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 illness.
Mental health nurses work to combat stigma and help patients and their families deal with it.

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 of the job.

Typical employers of mental health nurses

  • The NHS
  • General, psychiatric and secure hospitals
  • Residential and nursing homes
  • Community and rehabilitation units
  • Special units within prisons

Advertisements appear in newspapers, NHS trusts or local council jobs lists, and publications such as Nursing Times, Nursing Standard, Health Service Journal, British Medical Journal and their respective websites. Any experience of caring for people (eg in a care home or hospice) can be helpful.

Qualifications and training required

To qualify as a mental health nurse, you must successfully complete 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. Nurse First, a pilot two-year fast-track programme for graduates who want to enter nursing, has recently been launched by NHS England, and combines hands-on experience and training with an educational course. The scheme's initial focus is training mental health and learning disability nurses.

Applications for 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 and written communication skills
  • Resilience
  • Stamina