Mental health nurse

What do mental health nurses do?

Mental Health nurses support people with mental ill health, such as anxiety, depression, personality disorders, eating disorders, drug and alcohol addiction.

They aim to build good relationships with service users and their families to support the therapy process.

Mental Health nurses assess, plan, coordinate and manage care , while working closely with other health and social care professionals plus members of the care team.

Many work in local community services where a most care is provided. There are also opportunities to work in hospitals as well as residential and specialist services.

Mental Health Nursing - Keep it in Mind

Useful information

Use the links below to find out more about mental health nursing:

How I became a mental health nurse - Jill's story

Where did you study?

I studied at Middlesex University and I now work in mental health in Camden and Islington

What's your experience of working as a newly qualified nurse?

Since qualifying in September I've worked in the South Camden Crisis Team. I love it. My job involves working with people whom would probably be admitted to a psychiatric ward if we weren't working with them. Some people need to be in the hospital, but it's not always the best environment for recovery. We aim to help people to stay at home and get good support for their mental health.

Why did you decide to specialise in mental health?

I just love talking to people and helping people. My sister and my mum are both physical health nurses. I realised that I wasn't cut out for that side of things because I find it really upsetting when people pass away and that happens more commonly in that line of work.

Also, in mental health nursing you get a lot more time to talk to people. General healthcare is more task-oriented, but in mental healthcare we can sit and have good conversations and give people hope when they are feeling at their worst. It's more about relationships and being able to build up a rapport.

Why did you decide to stay in London after you qualified?

I'd lived in London for about three years before I started my training and I really like working for Camden & Islington NHS Foundation Trust. I’ve become very familiar with the Trust and I know most of the teams. I think that when you're newly qualified it's good to go somewhere where you feel comfortable and know the services.

London has got so many opportunities for nurses. There's always jobs for mental health nurses in lots of different areas. If I had moved back where I'm from in the north east in terms of career progression I think it would be very difficult because there's not as many vacancies. In London there are a lot more services that we can work in. It’s also very diverse, you get to work with people from completely different cultural backgrounds. I feel like I'm learning more in London than I would if I was elsewhere in the country.

What have you found challenging about your first year as a newly qualified nurse?

The people we work with in acute mental health services often suffer from complex conditions which can cause them great distress. When feeling particularly hopeless, they may act in risky and unpredictable ways, which can include feeling that suicide is the only option. That does unfortunately happen, despite working as a team to try to help our patients, and is understandably upsetting for everyone involved in their care.

Do you get support after that happens?

We've got good managers so we are well supported when that kind of thing happens. We review the person's notes to see if anything could have been done differently, which usually isn't the case. We have one-to-one clinical supervision with someone that's more senior than us. Our wellbeing is looked after.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I really like the fact that I can be autonomous and make independent decisions. In the community most of the time I do assessments on my own. So I go to see someone who’s been referred to the team and then I decide, does this person need to be in hospital, or can they be worked with safely in the community by the crisis team? Or maybe they don't need the crisis team and they would benefit from a referral to another service. I like that I can take the lead. I like doing risk assessments, which I know probably sounds really odd. But I enjoy that side of my job and being able to work as an independent practitioner.

If you could go back in time and give some advice to yourself when you were a student and applying for jobs, what would you say?

I was a little bit anxious about doing assessments on my own, but I’d say that don't need to worry because we're very well supported.

And I’d say that looking after our own wellbeing is really important because sometimes I get stressed at work. It's hard to switch off when you leave work thinking about situations. I find going to the gym helpful, and having fun with my friends, going out for food and watching crappy things on the television. Those are my ways of relaxing. They might not be everyone's cup of tea but it's what I like to do.

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