Shadowing a DoctorDecember 12, 2014
Education and training requirements
To qualify as a mental health nurse you will need to study for a degree in mental health nursing leading to registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). You will also need to pass all background checks and occupational health checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service.
Most programmes are full-time and take three years to complete. During your nurse-training programme, your time will be divided between your course work and supervised work placements in various hospitals and in the community.
Some of the curriculum covered in a mental health nursing degree programme includes:
- Theory and foundation of mental health nursing
- Developing and honing communication, observation and team-working skills
- Medicine management
- Counselling and therapeutic relationships
- Professional standards and code of practice
Students’ progress through the programme is measured through a combination of assessment, coursework, project work and exam results.
Professional registration is a must. All qualified, practicing nurses are required to renew their professional registration with the NMC every three years. To be able to renew, you need to have worked at least 450 hours and completed minimum 35 hours of professional development training during the preceding three-year period.
Job opportunities for mental health nurses
Most mental health nurses work for the NHS at outpatient departments, day hospitals and community healthcare centres. There are also job opportunities available in the private sector as well as with mental health charities, local authority social services and the prison service. If you choose to work with offenders or drug addicts, you would most likely work in secure units or special hospitals.
There is plenty of scope for advancement in this speciality. With further study to master’s degree level you would qualify to apply for a job as a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) or an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP). Both of these are high level nursing posts that offer attractive salaries.
Further experience as an ANP or a CNS could lead to a nurse consultant post. As a nurse consultant you could work independently and directly with patients, deliver training and carry out advanced research.
There are also plenty of overseas job opportunities with global health organisations who require mental health nurses to counsel victims of war, abuse and natural disasters.
Mental health nurse salary
The average annual salary for a mental health nurse in the UK is between £21,480 and £27,900. A more experienced nurse working as a clinical specialist, advanced practitioners or nurse team manager can earn an average of about £25,500 to around £40,500 a year and nurse consultants can earn from about £39,000 to £67,800 a year.