Mental health nursing is one of the most complex roles in the healthcare profession. With around 1 in 4 people in the UK suffering from a mental health problem, the UK's nursing personnel face a diverse set of challenges every day. If you are thinking about embarking on a career in mental health nursing, read our guide on the duties and work activities which a mental health nurse faces.
Daily duties, roles and responsibilities
No two mental health appointments are ever the same so the experience of a nurse's 'typical' day can vary greatly across individual cases. Generally speaking, mental health nurses in hospitals and GP surgeries work from 8am to 5pm - community nurses may work similar hours (with the added uncertainty of travel) and be on-call during some weekends. While the average work week is 37.5 hours, like other nursing positions, mental health nurses benefit from flexible hours and part time opportunities. Hospital ward positions will involve shift-work, which requires nurses to work around the clock, often starting and finishing at anti-social times.
The daily duties of a mental health nurse cover a spectrum of tasks both practical and administrative such as:
- The assessment of patients' care needs
- Planning patients' on-going care, including medical and therapeutic treatments
- Administering medication and medical treatments
- Liaising with doctors, nursing colleagues and other healthcare professionals
- Organising the workload of colleagues
- Working with patients' families, social workers and care workers to promote mental health awareness and ensure treatments and therapies are effective
Outside the ward and the clinic, community nurses will involve frequent visits to patients' homes - along with close consultation with social workers and other peripheral care organisations.
A mental health nurse working in a hospital setting should expect to deal with dozens of patients on any given day. In a community or GP setting, nurses may encounter a smaller overall pool of patients, but will be required to treat them in a much more focussed manner. In any setting, mental health nurses must be able to consistently treat patients as individuals - and be sensitive to their specific and specialised needs.
Mental health nursing is a demanding job, regularly placing nurses in situations which may be emotional and exhausting. Mental illness takes many forms: patients may be suffering from anxiety, depression, stress and personality disorders along with eating disorders and drug and alcohol addiction.
Best and worst parts of the job
Working long hours and seeing patients at their most vulnerable can be among the worst parts of any mental health job and nurses should be prepared to handle the significant pressure placed upon them. However, nursing also brings opportunities to directly affect and improve the lives of patients and their families - with the potential for immense emotional reward and job satisfaction.
Effecting real change and seeing the results of your hard work are highlights of a nurse's working life and, for those willing to take on the challenge, offer a long and exciting career in healthcare.
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