How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse: Australian Careers in Nursing

Working as a psychiatric or mental health nurse isn’t for everyone – it takes a certain type of strength to deal with people suffering from mental health issues on a day to day basis. It also requires specialised study in mental health nursing due to the knowledge and experience required. Mental health nurses are in high demand, to the point where the federal and state governments are offering scholarships to those wishing to enter the field.

  • Task Career in focus: What a psychiatric nurse does

    Mental health nurses work care for people with a range of mental health disorders. It is their responsibility to assist in improving psychological, physical and emotional health. Day to day duties could include observation, assisting patients, giving medication and working with other health care professionals. The end goal is to help patients either recover from or learn to manage their mental health condition to prevent is having a severe impact on their lives.

    Tasks:

    • Assessing patients who are mentally ill
    • Observation of patients
    • Helping patients participate in day-to-day activities
    • Administering medication
    • Assisting in behaviour modification programs
  • Skills Core qualities: Skills to succeed as a psychiatric nurse

    Mental health/psychiatric nurses need to have compassion and empathy towards those suffering from mental illness. This often requires a lot of emotional maturity and mental strength.  Nurses (of all kinds) need to have great communication skills as they are constantly interacting with others in the workplace, patients and other health professionals alike. Quick thinking and problem solving are also important for the job, as you never know when you will be faced with an emergency.

    Skills/attributes
    • Communication skills
    • Empathy and compassion
    • Detail-oriented
    • Emotional maturity
    • Problem solver
  • Specialisations The field: Specialisations within mental health nursing

    Mental health nursing is already a specialisation within the nursing industry – but it can be further narrowed into different parts of the health industry. Mental health nurses can work in a variety of settings – whether they’re in a hospital, at a community centre, contributing to research or delivering seminars at schools.

    Psychiatric emergency nursing

    Psychiatric emergency nurses work as part of a crisis management team, confronting situations such as attempted suicide, substance abuse, depression, psychosis, violence or other rapid changes in behaviour. Caring for patients in a dangerous and/or volatile state can be difficult, and at times they may have to be involuntarily committed.

    Community mental health nurses

    Community mental health nurses work in places such as mental health centres, rehab or detoxification centres, group homes and other community settings. 

    Mental health nurses in general practices

    All general practioners need help from mental health professionals when they encounter patients suffering from mental illness. Mental health nurses must have great communication.

  • Pathways The right track: Find study options for psychiatric nursing

    Mental health nursing is already a specialisation within the nursing industry – but it can be further narrowed into different parts of the health industry. Mental health nurses can work in a variety of settings – whether they’re in a hospital, at a community centre, contributing to research or delivering seminars at schools.

    Starting Out

    Get your foot in the door by completing an undergraduate degree in nursing and working as either an enrolled nurse or a registered nurse.

    Building Skills

    Registered nurses can work in mental health and increase their qualifications by undertaking further study or applying to become a credentialed mental health nurse.

    Developing Your Resume

    The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses provides various professional development opportunities.

    Industry Recognition

    Registered mental health nurses can apply to become a Credentialed Mental Health Nurses.

    Entering the Workforce

    Work on your resume to make it as impressive as possible – be sure to include all your experience and qualifications, especially those relating to mental health. Having a great application makes a big difference when applying for jobs.

    Job Prospects in Nursing: Working life as a psychiatric nurse

    Nurses will continue to be in demand as Australia deals with its ageing population. Many people who suffer from mental health issues or disorders are in their senior years, making demand for mental health nurses potentially even stronger than it has ever been.

Nursing Resources:

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