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Purpose and Mission
Psychiatric or mental health nurses are trained to assess and treat the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of individuals, within the context of individual experience and in partnership with their family, caregivers and the community at large.
These healthcare professionals support individuals and their families during life crises and transition periods, work closely with other healthcare providers, provide education and counseling on mental health, as well as coordinate care and offer talking therapy.
You will find psychiatric nurses working in a broad range of clinical and service settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, universities and prisons. These mental health professionals have the skills and experience to provide top quality mental health nursing care in any setting.
Mental health nurses often report to a head nurse, nursing supervisor or service chief. In many cases, their day-to-day activities are directly supervised by a charge nurse.
Senior mental health nurses may have notable direct supervisory responsibilities, including overseeing other members of the healthcare team and training new psychiatric nurses. Less experienced nurses rarely have significant supervisory responsibilities.
Psychiatric nurses are nearly always registered nurses (with at least a bachelor’s degree in most cases). A substantial number worked as enrolled nurses for some years before going back to school to become an RN.
All RNs must have a valid Nursing Registration with the AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioners Agency) to work in a clinical setting with patients.
Many employers prefer MHN candidates who have completed the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses Credential for Practice Program.
Responsibilities of a Psychiatric Nurse
A psychiatric nurse helps treat patients suffering from depression, schizophrenia, a bipolar disorder or psychosis. Psychiatric patients are treated in institutional psychiatric units, hospitals, nursing homes and in their homes in the community.
The primary responsibilities of a mental health nurse include assessing patients who are mentally ill, helping patients take part in activities, administering medications, observing, assisting in behaviour modification programs and visiting patients at home.
A mental health nurse also frequently has family liaison duties, providing support to both the patient and the patient’s family, helping everyone understand what the patient is going through, the impact of the treatment is working, the prognosis, and the timeline for coming home.
Consulting and coordinating with other health care providers is a big part of the job of an MHN, as continuity of care is especially important for mental health patients.
Subspecialties in the mental health field include drug and alcohol nurse, child and adolescent mental health nurse, psychogeriatric care nurse and psychiatric rehab nurse.