Mental health nurse

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

Salary range: £24,214 to £37,367

How to become a mental health nurse

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • a specialist course run by a professional body

University

You can do a degree in mental health nursing approved by the Nursing & Midwifery Council.

Some degree courses let you study another area of nursing alongside mental health nursing.

You may be able to join a nursing degree on the second year of a course if you already have a degree in:

  • a health-related subject
  • psychology
  • life sciences
  • social work

Full-time courses usually take 3 years.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
  • 2 or 3 A levels, including a science, or a level 3 diploma or access to higher education in health, science or nursing

More information

Apprenticeship

You may be able to do a degree apprenticeship in nursing if you work in a healthcare setting like a hospital.

The apprenticeship takes around 4 years and is a mix of academic study and on-the-job training.

You must be supported by your employer to take this route.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship

More information

Volunteering and experience

You’ll find it helpful to get some paid or voluntary experience in healthcare, or with a charity that offers mental health services, before you apply for nurse training.

Other routes

You may be able to qualify through an 18-month mental health nursing conversion course if you’re already a registered nurse in a different branch. You’ll need to speak to your employer if you want to do this.

More information

Registration

Career tips

It’s possible to do a degree in mental health nursing and social work. You’ll need to check that the course is recognised by the relevant professional bodies. Course providers can advise you on this.

Further information

You’ll find more advice about working and training in nursing from the Royal College of Nursing and Health Careers.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • knowledge of psychology
  • knowledge of medicine and dentistry
  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • customer service skills
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work well with others
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

Restrictions and requirements

You’ll need to:

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your daily 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

Working environment

You could work at a health centre, at an adult care home, in an NHS or private hospital, at a client’s home, at a GP practice or in a prison.

Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

You may need to wear a uniform.

Career path and progression

With experience you could become a 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 give training.

You could also train in health visiting, become self-employed or work overseas.

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