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Registered nurse (mental health)

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Summary of occupation

Mental health nurses provide care, counselling and support for people suffering from mental illness. Whether caring for those with short-term illnesses such as depression or phobias, or more serious problems such as schizophrenia or personality disorders, mental health nurses ensure that these people are able to heal in a safe and supportive environment. They organise and facilitate activities either for individual patients or for groups that assist in personal development, observe the condition of individual patients, administer medication, facilitate and run therapy groups, and liaise with other mental health professionals about the most appropriate treatment for patients.

ANZSCO description: Provides nursing care to patients with mental  health illness, disorder and dysfunction, and those experiencing  emotional difficulties, distress and crisis in health, welfare and  aged care facilities, correctional services and the community.  Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names: Mental Health Nurse, Psychiatric Nurse
Specialisations: Psychopaedic Nurse (NZ), Registered Nurse (Child and Adolescence Mental Health), Registered Nurse (Drug and Alcohol), Registered Nurse (Psychiatric Rehabilitation), Registered Nurse (Psychogeriatric Care)
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A mental health nurse needs:

  • a caring and compassionate nature
  • an interest in the health and wellbeing of people
  • maturity and responsibility
  • good communication skills
  • the ability to deal with unpredictable behaviour
  • organisational skills
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Working conditions

Mental health nurses work in mental health clinics, hospitals and other health care facilities. They may be required to do shift work including weekends and public holidays, and their working times may be irregular. They may be required to work with people who are suffering from emotionally debilitating conditions who are unpredictable in their behaviour and may be aggressive. They may be exposed to bodily fluids. Mental health nurses may also be expected to travel to visit clients in their homes.

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Salary details

On average, mental health nurses, classified under registered nurses, can expect to earn between $1 250 and $1 499 per week ($65 000 and $77 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As a mental health nurse develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Mental health nurses use office equipment such as computers, telephones and fax machines. They administer medication, and may require a drivers license in order to visit patients.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a qualified mental health nurse you need to study nursing at university.

Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

Once you are qualified as a registered nurse, you usually need to complete a postgraduate course in mental health nursing to become a mental health nurse. Alternatively, you need to have three years experience working in mental health.

To work as a registered nurse in Western Australia, you must obtain professional registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, and hold a current Working with Children Check issued by the Working with Children Screening Unit of the Department of Community Services​.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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