How to Become a Mental Health Nurse in Australia
A mental health nurse has one of the most demanding jobs, mentally and physically. That being said, it is also one of the jobs where you can make a big difference, making it very rewarding. These nurses work with patients with mental illnesses, typically of all ages. Their day-to-day responsibilities vary depending on whether they are working in a hospital, care home, community drop-in centers, etc. In general, they create strong therapeutic relationships with patients and their families, supporting their recovery every step of the way.
Every patient is different, meaning that the nurses' approach needs to be varied as well. That means that mental health nurses need to have a high level of flexibility, patience and understanding for their patients. Dealing with mental health issues is no walk in the park, so nurses try to offer support to the patient's families, too. This can take a toll on their own lives, as they might become overwhelmed with the daily tasks or preoccupied with patients. However, the personal connection aspect brings a higher level of reward whenever a patient achieves progress. This makes mental health nursing one of the most gratifying careers out there.
Do you like challenging settings? Are your interpersonal skills your best quality? Do you want to work in an environment in which you can actively help people? If you've answered 'yes' to these questions, you should consider becoming a mental health nurse. And here's how to do that.
Step 1: Study Nursing, Science or Health Services
Generally speaking, medicine is one career where cutting corners just doesn't work. Formal education is a must-have for anyone looking for a job in the medical field, in order to ensure best patient care and safety. This means that your first step is to look into what prerequisites you need in order to enroll in a Bachelor course. Most commonly, you will need a strong math and science background or some relevant work experience. If the first is a no-go, think about volunteering in local facilities in order to get the experience you need to pursue a degree.
Step 2: Become a Registered Nurse
Once you have completed your Bachelor degree, you will need to apply to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia in order to practice as a registered nurse. This registration needs to be renewed once a year. When you have a few years of experience as a nurse, you can specialise in mental health nursing. You can also consider simultaneously working on step 3 and getting a specialisation.
Step 3: Specialise in Mental Health Nursing
While having a Bachelor certainly helps, you will need to complete some postgraduate studies in order to be fully qualified for becoming a mental health nurse. A Masters degree in mental health nursing would be the best way to work on your skills and knowledge. The job itself is demanding and you will need to have as much of an upper-hand as possible. This is where theoretical knowledge comes in. Most courses are flexible, so you can look into finding one that could support your current lifestyle.
Step 4: Find the Right Job
You've put in the work and gotten your qualifications. It's time to look for a position to call your own. Buff up your CV and prepare for the interview. Ensure you lay out all the skills you have that will make you the perfect mental health nurse. If you've done any related volunteer work in the past or have any relevant work experience, make sure you highlight that. It shouldn't be too difficult to find a job as a mental health nurse, especially considering there are currently thousands of open positions.
What Does a Mental Health Nurse Do?
A mental health nurse provides both medical and psychological help and support to patients with mental health issues. Therefore, their primary task is to understand the patient and the difficulties they face. Then, they need to create individualised plans to fully support patient recovery. Most often, they counsel families of the patient as well, ensuring that they are providing the best environment for recovery. For the most part, they serve as advocates for their patients, making sure that their rights are being fully exercised. Depending on the situation, they might also help with day-to-day activities, such as dressing, eating or taking medicine. However, their main job is still to generate a therapeutic connection and relationship with patients. This helps in doing what's best for them and working on their recovery effectively.
- Creating a therapeutic relationship with patients and their families
- Taking records on patient care, symptoms and behaviours
- Assisting with patient examinations
- Providing suitable medical care
- Fabricating an environment most suitable for patient recovery
- Assisting patients with daily activities
- Providing support and understanding patient needs
- Counseling families
- Creating individualised recovery plans
- Advocating for patients
Skills for Success
A mental health nurse needs to be patient and understanding. Firstly, they have to be able to put the needs of the patient first and be flexible in their approach. Their interpersonal and communication skills need to be exceptional, and they need to be able to bond with patients quickly. Additionally, they should have a strong desire to make a difference and a character strong enough to handle setbacks. In summary, mental health nurses need to create a trust-worthy environment best suited for patient recovery.
- Communication and interpersonal skills
- Resilience and responsibility
- Commitment and motivation
- Flexibility and problem-oriented approach
- Strength of character
- People-oriented approach
- Organisation and record-keeping
- Medical knowledge