Becoming a mental health nurse
By Liam Dale
Whether you’re a registered general nurse or you’re about to start your training, you may be thinking about a career in mental health nursing.
If you’re interested in supporting people through a mental health crisis and beyond, you’ll appreciate that no two days will be the same. This makes the work just as rewarding as it is challenging.
What do I need to know about becoming a mental health nurse?
If you’re thinking about becoming a mental health nurse, you’ll likely have a few questions about how you start your journey to become a Registered Mental Health Nurse (RMN).
There are many different types of RMN roles given the number specialist areas of mental health. Generally though, your role as an RMN is to promote and support a person’s recovery and support them in having more involvement in how they manage their condition.
This means, your learning will be as much about gaining a sound clinical mental health knowledge as it will knowing how to support somebody to live well.
Why choose mental health nursing as a career?
At an interview for a university placement or your first job, you may be asked why you’re interested in becoming a mental health nurse.
No two answers will be the same, but it’s useful to know why you’ve decided to choose a career as an RMN so that you can explain your decision to others.
Becoming a mental health nurse gives you the opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives at a time when they are likely to be at their most vulnerable. Mental health issues can affect anybody at any time in their life and so you will be able to support a broad variety of people.
Your role, as a mental health nurse, will be to build effective relationships with patients as well as their family and carers and recommend the right interventions at the right time.
Training and becoming a mental health nurse
To be a mental health nurse you’ll need to train and study at degree level. Typically, you have one of two options. You can either study at university or complete a nursing degree apprenticeship approved by the Nursing & Midwifery Council. The NHS Health Careers website has a useful course finder to help you make your choice.
You may also find it useful to experience some paid or voluntary experience working in a mental health setting before you apply. Many charities offer such opportunities.
How do I make the switch from an RGN to an RMN?
You will need to speak to your employer, but if you’re already a registered nurse working in a different field, you may be able to qualify through a mental health nursing conversion course. These usually take 18 months and will involve study outside of working hours.
We’ve known many RGNs who, in becoming a mental health nurse, feel a sense of renewed passion for their career. For many, it’s an opportunity to treat mental health issues that often co-exist with other health conditions.
Where will I work once qualified?
Once you’ve finished your journey to becoming a mental health nurse, you’ll likely be based in a hospital or the community. This is where most mental health support is offered but there are a smaller number of RMN roles in residential settings.
If you choose to work in a hospital, you’ll work within a team supporting patients with psychiatric needs. This could be within a psychiatric intensive care unit, a dedicated ward, outpatients setting or specialist unit for suicide or self-harm.
In the community, you’re focus will be on helping people to manage their mental health within the environment in which they are living. Usually you’ll be connected to a local GP surgery or mental health charity and you’ll visit patients in their own homes, at the doctors, or within community health care centres. You could of course, work within a specific setting with patients presenting with additional challenges such as a prison or residential centre.
The important thing to remember is that you’ll never be short of opportunities and there is plenty of room to specialise and progress as an RMN.
If you have a quick search of our jobs, you’ll see that Sanctuary Personnel has a broad range of RMN roles currently available – and the demand is growing every day.