As what is arguable one of the most demanding fields of healthcare, mental health nursing jobs come with a great deal of responsibility. As a mental health nurse, you may find yourself working in the community, at a hospital, or even in a residential home.
Most mental health nurses now train fully at undergraduate level, or they convert their degrees at postgraduate level. In either case, there are further opportunities for career progression, which can lead onto better paying opportunities.
Unlike many areas of medicine, dealing with the mind and brain is not an exact science. This makes mental health nursing particularly challenging.
Many mental health nurses now train entirely at undergraduate level by taking a BSc in Mental Health Nursing. During the first year, you train alongside both prospective paediatric and adult nurses. In the last two years, you specialize in mental health.
Training is often an ongoing process for mental health nurses. There continues to be a great deal of stigma attached to mental illnesses. In addition, assaults against mental health nurses are higher than in other fields. As such, you may find yourself engaging in risk awareness training on a regular basis.
Much like a district health nurse, a mental health nurse spends most of their time working in the community. The days of those with mental illnesses immediately being sectioned are long gone. Instead, the aim of mental health care is to support them in an everyday environment, so that they can engage in everyday activities like work and socialising.
In some cases, you may find yourself working in a day hospital. Day units are like a halfway place between living in the community and full-time mental health care. Patients may go there for brief counseling sessions, or for respite with their relatives. In addition to day units, there is work in GP's surgeries, as well as mental health wards and hospitals that provide patients with respite on a full-time basis.
Mental health teams are now quite broad in nature. While you'll be required to lead and think independently, you'll also be needed as a key team player. This means you'll work with therapists, psychiatrists, educational psychiatrists, GPs, and other healthcare professionals. Maintaining clear lines of communication at all times is essential.
The vast majority of mental health nurse jobs come from the NHS. As such, you can use the NHS Jobs website to find relevant positions. If you're yet to start university, you may find that work becomes available in the hospitals where you complete your placements. One key word of advice is for all mental health nursing students to treat each placement like a potential interview. The more you shine while there, the stronger your chances of being hired on a full-time basis are.
Finally, there are limited jobs in the private sector, and some agency work. Both tend to be quite well paid, but may not offer as much diversity as the NHS.