Mental Health Nursing

Mental health nurses work to build effective relationships with people who use mental health services, and also with their relatives and carers. Their role is varied and may involve helping one individual to take their medication correctly while advising another on relevant therapies or social activities. Success as a mental health nurse comes from being able to establish trusting relationships quickly and to help individuals understand their situation to get the best possible outcome. 


Mental Health Nurse: Career Case Notes 

Check out all the vitals for a career as a Mental Health Nurse

Graphic of a clipboard on a background of medical illustrations that reads: Profession: Mental Health Nurse Essential Qualifications: A degree or degree apprenticeship in Mental Health Nursing Frequently works in: psychiatric wards, Intensive Care units, Eating disorder units, GP surgeries, patient homes Average working hours: 37.5 hours on shift pattern which can include nights, early starts, evenings, weekends and bank holidays Frequently works with: GPs, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, arts therapists, healthcare assistants. Key skills: problem-solving, communication, resilience, teamwork, adaptability

What do mental health nurses do?

An important part of being a mental health nurse is an ability to recognise a patient’s individual needs in order to build a trusting and withstanding relationship. For this reason, their work can vary significantly day-to-day. 

Some of the key roles and responsibilities of a mental health nurse include: 

  • Providing 1:1 support and counselling
  • Advising on appropriate medication 
  • Providing physical health checks
  • Collaborating with patients to set goals and care plans
  • Co-ordinating care plans with other health and social welfare professionals 
  • Sign-posting appropriate interventions and resources – such as talking therapy or behaviour management techniques

Where do mental health nurses work?

Mental health nurses are either based in a hospital or in the community. Click to find out more about the different opportunities available in both contexts.

  • Hospital

    In a hospital, mental health nurses often work with patients that require emergency or prolonged care. This may mean seeing the same patients on a daily basis and following their journey to recovery and transition into the community

    As a mental health nurse working in a hospital you could work in a:

    •    Psychiatric intensive care unit
    •    Psychiatric ward
    •    Outpatient unit
    •    Specialist unit dealing with eating disorders

  • Community

    Community care is focused on ensuring that patients can receive treatment and set goals that fit around their daily life and routines. This may include helping individuals that are making the transition from inpatient hospital care, regular 1:1 appointments or group sessions.

    As a mental health nurse in the community you could work in a:

    • GP surgery
    • Prison
    • Community healthcare centre
    • Residential centre
    • Patient’s home

What skills do you need?

Being a mental health nurse is a challenging but rewarding career. These are just some of skills that are central to this role. Click to find out more about what these mean in practice. 

  • Problem-solving

    Mental health nurses need to think creatively to overcome the unique challenges faced by each patient. This may be quick responses or involve more in-depth planning. 

  • Communication

    Being able to communicate with colleagues, patients and their families is an essential part of being a mental health nurse. Being a good communicator is also about being an attentive listener as feedback from patients and their families is essential to building a successful care plan. Many patients may struggle to explain their needs verbally so being patient and able to pick up on behaviour, body language and gestures is also important. 

  • Resilience

    As part of their daily work, mental health nurses are subject to challenging emotions and experiences. To provide the best professional care for their patients, mental health nurses need to ensure they are also able to maintain their own mental wellbeing. 

  • Teamwork

    Mental health nurses work as part of a multi-disciplinary team to care for their patients. This means that they will be colaborate with their immediate colleagues and other healthcare professionals, such as doctors, occupational therapists and psychologists to prodcue and deliver care plans that can benefit all aspects of a patient's health and wellbeing. 

  • Adaptability

    No two days are the same for a mental health nurse as they often work with people of all ages and backgrounds, each with their own unique set of needs and interests. Therefore, they must be open to the diversity that comes with this role and willing to adapt their approach to suit each individual. This means that the role can come with an element of creativity as each care plan and its delivery will be unique. 

    It is equally important to recognise that patients may be unpredictable in their actions and behaviour so being able to quickly adapt and respond to situations is essential. 

Why study Mental Health Nursing?

Mental Health Nursing could be for you if you want to:

  • Have a challenging but rewarding career.
  • Build meaningful relationships with patients.
  • Be flexible and creative in how you approach challenges.
  • Empower people and make an impact on their life.
  • Work as part of a team with other healthcare professionals.
  • Have good graduate prospects (mental health nurses are in high demand)