Psychology and Mental Health Nursing
Particularly within the NHS, it is common for psychologists (of all types) to work with other mental health professionals including nurses, psychiatrists and psychotherapists.
This set of articles explores the differences between those disciplines and psychologists.
Role Of Mental Health NursesThis is seen as one of the most demanding roles for nurses in the NHS and they can work in the community, outpatients unit or in hospital settings (or permanent residential care homes). Mental Health Nurses also undertake home visits. A key part of the job is to build up a rapport with patients and their families with the aim of assisting patients to take responsibility for their own care.
Nurses may work one to one with patients, or run small groups to assist patients to recover from their illness and in developing coping strategies. As with other nursing roles, there is also a need to play a role in health education and promotion.
The role can involve specialist areas such as alcohol or drug addiction, forensic work or opt to work with children or adolescents.
Training As A Mental Health NurseThe formal training for the role is to study to at least a Diploma in Higher Education in Nursing at one of the UK’s universities. Many nurses extend this period of study to complete a BSc in Nursing – either full time or by under taking further study once they have started work.
The qualifications needed vary between universities but are usually GCSE O Levels or Scottish Standard Grades. Equally if you have already qualified as a nurse in a different discipline it is possible to take a conversion course to become a mental health nurse.
The academic programme includes a considerable amount of practical placement work (for example with a Community Psychiatric Nurse) or in rehabilitation units. Increasingly the academic element of the programme is also being structured around practical skills based teaching in simulated clinical environments.
The training is focused on the ethical issues around mental health and developing the key skill of working empathetically with patients. Another key area (common across many mental health professionals) is learning how to carry out risk assessments and how to integrate this into practice – e.g. when or if to undertake home visits.
There are also some important differences between Scotland and England in terms of nursing training and practice in the NHS.
Once mental health nurses have completed their diploma or degree, they will continue to study specific aspects – whether these are to do with changes of legislation or practice or linked to developing new skills. Many mental health nurses do start to learn skills as counsellors and particular approaches from psychology such as cognitive-behavioural therapy.
Working With PsychologistsIt is common for mental health nurses to work in teams with psychologists. In part the role is to undertake a more general patient support, including home visits and liaison with social work.
Equally some qualified mental health nurses will offer psychological therapies and may work with a chartered psychologist in determining suitable patients and approaches. In this case, a nurse may also work with a psychologist who provides professional guidance and supervision.