- Provide vital help and care to people experiencing poor mental health
- You'll need empathy, patience and excellent observation and caring skills
- Opportunities to progress into a range of specialisms or senior nursing roles
As a mental health nurse you'll support people who have conditions including anxiety, depression, stress-related illnesses, personality disorders, eating disorders, drug and alcohol-related issues. You could work with a variety of people, or specialise and work with a particular group, like adolescents or offenders.
- Assessing and supporting patients
- Encouraging patients to take part in role play, art, drama and discussion as therapies, physical care if the patient is too old or ill to look after themselves
- Giving medication
You'll work closely with support workers, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and health visitors. You may also help clients if they need to deal with social workers, the police, relevant charities, local government or housing officials.
You could work at a health centre, at an adult care home, in an NHS or private hospital, at a client's home, at a GP practice or in a prison. Work might be emotionally demanding at times.
To be a mental health nurse, you'll need knowledge of psychology, medicine and dentistry; counselling skills; customer service skills; sensitivity and understanding; thoroughness and attention to detail; the ability to work well with others; and excellent verbal communication skills.
You can do a degree in mental health nursing approved by the Nursing & Midwifery Council. Some degree courses let you study another area of nursing alongside mental health nursing. You might be able to join a nursing degree on the second year of a course if you already have a degree in a health-related subject, psychology, life sciences, or social work.
You might be able to do a degree apprenticeship in nursing if you work in a healthcare setting like a hospital. You must be supported by your employer to take this route.
You should aim to do some paid or voluntary experience in healthcare, or with a charity that offers mental health services, before you apply for nurse training.
Alternatively, you might be able to qualify through an 18-month mental health nursing conversion course if you're already a registered nurse in a different branch.
With experience you could progress to sister or ward manager and be responsible for running a ward or team of nurses in the community. You could go on to become matron or director of nursing.
With further study and experience you could become an advanced nurse practitioner (ANP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or nurse consultant. Consultants work directly and independently with patients, carry out research and develop and deliver training. You could also train in health visiting, become self-employed or work overseas.