What does a psychiatric nurse do?
Mental health nurses work with people with a range of mental health disorders, including mental illnesses and psychological distress. They work with their clients to promote psychological wellbeing, emotional health and physical wellbeing. This can include helping their clients understand their mental health conditions, teaching them to manage their symptoms or becoming aware of what can exacerbate their mental health condition.
- Assessing patients who are mentally ill
- Observation of patients
- Helping patients participate in day-to-day activities
- Administering medication
- Assisting in behaviour modification programs
What skills do I need to be a psychiatric nurse?
Psychiatric nurses should be compassionate and possess empathy for people who are living with mental illnesses. They should have advanced emotional maturity to support their patients. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are a must, as they are required to work well with others. Good problem solving skills are essential, as is the ability to work well under pressure and in an emergency.
- Interpersonal and people skills
- Empathy and compassion
- Attention to detail
- Problem solving skills
Mental health nursing is in itself a specialisation of the nursing profession. Mental health nurses find themselves working in acute and emergency care in hospitals, or in the community as part of a continuum of care teams providing ongoing recovery and support. Mental health nurses can progress their careers with advanced clinical positions such as clinical nurse consultant or clinical nurse practitioner, or move into education, research or a management-based role.
Psychiatric emergency nursing
Community mental health nurse
Mental health nurse in general practice
Study pathways for psychiatric nurses
An undergraduate degree in nursing will allow you to register to practise as a nurse and work in most mental health settings. Specialist mental health nurses must complete a postgraduate qualification.
Get your foot in the door by completing an undergraduate degree in nursing and working as either an enrolled nurse or a registered nurse.
Registered nurses can work in mental health and increase their qualifications by undertaking further study or applying to become a credentialed mental health nurse.
The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses provides various professional development opportunities.
Registered nurses practising within the mental health field can apply to be a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse.
Getting a job after graduation
Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your nursing career. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for nursing jobs.
Job Prospects and Salaries
Nursing is a profession that has been in demand and will continue to be in demand in the future, as Australia deals with the complexities of an ageing population. A large proportion of registered nurses who work in mental health are close to retirement age, meaning there will be strong demand for this particular specialisation in the future.