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1 Oct 2019

How to become a Mental Health Nurse

Daily Life

There are over 35,000 mental health nurses working in the NHS, but the numbers are dropping, and mental health has been identified as a priority area. This means the role of mental health nurse is in extremely high demand, making it a great choice of career path.

What do Mental Health Nurses do?

Mental health nurses support people with people with mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, addiction issues and eating disorders. Some mental health nurses specialise in working with a particular group, such as adolescents or offenders.

The role involves building good relationships with both service users and their relatives and carers, so that everyone is involved in the therapy process.

Typical duties involve:

  • assessing and supporting patients
  • identifying when a patient is at risk of harming themselves or others
  • advising patients on relevant therapies or social activities, such as role play, art, drama and discussion
  • helping patients to take their medication correctly
  • physical care, if the patient is too old or ill to look after themselves

Helping people back to mental health is every bit as valuable and satisfying as caring for those with a physical illness.

Where do Mental Health Nurses work?

Most mental health nursing jobs are in the NHS, either in hospitals, in a specialist unit or psychiatric ward, or in the community, in GP surgeries, residential homes or health care centres.

Mental health nurses can also work in the private sector, in the prison service, for local authority social services, or for mental health charities.

How do you become a Mental Health Nurse?

In order to get a Registered Mental Health Nurse (RMN) job, you’ll need a degree in mental health nursing and to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. To study for a nursing degree, you would typically need five GCSEs (A-C), including English, maths and a science subject, and two or three A levels, including at least one science or health-related subject.

You’ll also need to pass occupational health checks and background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), as you’ll be working with vulnerable patients.

Skills required for mental health nursing jobs:

  • A sympathetic and non-judgemental attitude
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to work effectively as part of a team

How much do Mental Health Nurse jobs pay?

Like most NHS jobs, salaries for mental health nurses are covered by the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay scales. NHS mental health nurses usually start on Band 5 and work a standard 37.5 hours per week.

Primary mental health workers working in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are typically on Bands 6 and 7.

Roles based outside the NHS, such as in the prison service or police force, have a variety of different salaries and conditions.

Once you have gained further experience, training and qualifications, you can apply for more senior posts

What are the opportunities for career progression?

Mental health nurses have a wide range of opportunities for career progression. You could aim to move up into management, teaching or clinical research. Alternatively, you might decide to specialise in a particular field, such as alcohol or substance misuse, forensic psychology, psychotherapeutic interventions or working with offenders or children and young people.

Further information

Mental Health Nursing jobs

A day in the life of a Mental Health Nurse

NHS Careers: Mental Health Nurse

Mental Health Nurses Association (MHNA)