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Mental health nurse

Mental health nurses work in hospitals and the community, to support people with a range of mental health issues. 

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £22,000 to £48,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37.5 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need a degree in mental health nursing. When applying for courses it may help to have some relevant paid or voluntary experience.

You’ll also need:

If you’ve a health-related degree, you may be able to join a nursing degree on the second year of a course.

If you’re an experienced healthcare assistant or mental health support worker, you may be able to complete a part-time nursing degree by applying for a secondment.

You may be able to get NHS funding to pay for your course fees and help with your living expenses.

The NMC has more information about becoming a mental health nurse.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • excellent observation skills
  • excellent communication and listening skills
  • the ability to gain a patient’s trust
  • empathy and the ability to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds
  • the ability to stay calm in difficult situations
  • assertiveness and the ability to represent patients’ interests 
You may need a driving licence to work in the community.

3. What you'll do

You’ll support people who have:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • stress-related illnesses
  • personality disorders
  • eating disorders
  • drug and alcohol addiction 

You could work with a variety of people, or specialise and work with a particular group, like adolescents or offenders. Your day-today duties may include:

  • assessing and supporting patients
  • encouraging patients to take part in role play, art, drama and discussion as therapies
  • physical care, if the patient is too old or ill to look after themselves
  • giving medication 

You’ll work closely with support workers, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and health visitors. You may also help clients if they need to deal with social workers, the police, relevant charities, local government or housing officials.

4. Salary

Starter: £22,000 to £28,500

Experienced: £26,000 to £41,000

Highly Experienced: up to £48,000

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 37.5 hours a week. This could include evenings, weekends, night shifts and bank holidays.
 
You’ll work in a hospital on a ward, specialist unit or outpatients unit. If you work in the community you could be based at a GP surgery, community health centre, prison or a patient’s home.

6. Career path and progression

With experience you could progress to sister or ward manager and be responsible for running a ward or team of nurses in the community. You could go on to become matron or director of nursing.

With further study and experience you could become an advanced nurse practitioner (ANP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or nurse consultant. Consultants work directly and independently with patients, carry out research and develop and deliver training.
 
You could also train in health visiting, become self-employed or work overseas.

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Last updated: 13 September 2017