Shadowing a Doctor

December 12, 2014

Gap Medics students with their mentor inTanzania.jpg With the field of medicine becoming more and more specialised, nurses today have more opportunities than ever before to pursue a niche field of their choice. If you are interested in nursing as well as psychology, you can fuse your two interests into an interesting and satisfying career such as mental health nursing.

To work in this speciality, you will first need to complete a nursing degree approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. 

It is most important for a mental health nurse to be non-judgmental and sympathetic and to gain a patient’s trust. If you want to help people with mental health problems and you have the necessary attributes for this speciality, a job in mental health could be perfect for you.


Job description

Mental health nurses focus on supporting people with various mental health issues ranging from anxiety and addiction to suicidal tendencies. As mental health issues affect not just individuals but the entire family, the main goal is to involve the whole family in the therapy process.

In this specialty you would interact with people who have conditions such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Personality disorders
  • Drug addiction
  • Stress-related illnesses
  • Eating disorders
  • Alcohol addiction


As a mental health nurse, you could choose to work with clients suffering from a variety of disorders or you could choose to specialise and work with a specific group, such as drug addicts, adolescents or individuals with personality disorders.

Your range of duties in this specialty could include:

  • Assessing patients
  • Offering consistent support, advice and encouragement to clients and their families
  • Recommending some form of therapy that may be effective such as drama, art or participating in role play
  • Providing physical care to the patients who may be too ill or too old to look after themselves
  • Prescribing medication to patients if necessary


Being a team player is important for anyone who wants to become a mental health nurse as this role involves daily interaction with other professionals including clinical psychologists, home healthcare nurses, psychiatrists and support workers.


Desirable traits and skills in mental health nurses

This is a speciality where your personality is just as important as your academic qualifications. If this is a career you are considering, here are some of the desirable traits and skills you should have:

  • Outstanding listening and communication skills
  • An understanding and sympathetic demeanour
  • The ability to empathise without being judgmental
  • A good understanding of non-verbal communication and body language
  • The ability to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds
  • The ability to gain a patient’s trust
  • The ability to stay calm and in control in difficult situations
  • The ability to manage emotional situations
  • The ability to work as part of a team
  • A persuasive manner
  • Assertiveness and the ability to represent patients’ interests


Check back for Part 2, which will address the educational and training requirements, job opportunities and salary of a mental health nurse.