A look inside the role of a mental health nurse

The role of a mental health nurse is integral in supporting people with different mental health conditions. Working as part of a multidisciplinary team to deliver effective and holistic care, a mental health nurse’s responsibilities are typically focused on supporting recovery, empowering patients to manage their health and wellbeing, and helping to increase their quality of life.

In this article, we have looked at a mental health nurse’s role and responsibilities, the different settings you can work in and the mental health job opportunities available here at Pulse.

Common role and responsibilities of a mental health nurse

The primary role of a mental health nurse is to support patients’ mental wellbeing and overall health. This involves a range of different responsibilities, which include those outlined below.

Conducting assessments

Assessments take place through conversations with patients, their families, and caregivers. They cover topics such as a person’s symptoms, thoughts and feelings, physical health, and previous experiences. These conversations allow you to fully understand a person’s needs so that you can decide on the best kind of support for them to receive.

Developing care plans

As you put together care plans, you will set out the support a person will receive and who will provide it. During this time, you’ll agree with patients on how care will be delivered and set specific goals to be met.

Administer medications

As a mental health nurse, you’ll help people take the proper medication, in the right amount, at the correct times. It’s also your responsibility to monitor the effectiveness of any medication that a person takes.

Provide therapeutic interventions

You may use evidence-based therapeutic approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), psychoeducation, supportive counselling, and creative therapies.

Managing crises

You’ll manage urgent situations, ensuring the safety of those involved. This includes providing immediate support using de-escalation techniques, implementing crisis intervention plans, and facilitating access to resources and emergency services.

Monitoring physical health

Monitoring a patient’s physical health involves carrying out follow-up assessments, tracking vital signs, and evaluating any physical symptoms or changes in patients. You’ll promote healthy lifestyle choices and help with medical interventions or referrals.

Educating patients and families

Mental health nurses impart valuable information about mental health conditions, treatment options, and coping strategies. You’ll teach self-care techniques, provide guidance on medication management, and connect people with resources for ongoing support.

Advocating for patients’ rights

You’ll help patients gain equal access to care and preserve their dignity and safety. When patients are particularly vulnerable and unable to look after themselves, this is a vital part of your role as a mental health nurse.

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Maintaining accurate documentation

Mental health nursing requires you to keep well-organised, detailed records with information about assessments, interventions, progress notes, and medication administration. Your documentation should adhere to legal and professional standards, comply with confidentiality guidelines, support communication, and ensure continuity of care.

What is life as a mental health nurse like?

The role of a mental health nurse can be demanding, though highly rewarding.

You’ll generally work any day of the week, with night duty and on-call work often required. If you work as a bank or agency nurse, you’ll have more choice over the hours you work, with the freedom to choose your shifts.

In return for its demands, mental health nursing is fulfilling for many, as you witness people progress and improve their mental health.

Settings where mental health nurses work

Mental health nurse roles and responsibilities can vary depending on where you work. Common settings you can work in include:

  • Hospitals include psychiatric intensive care units, psychiatric wards, outpatient clinics or specialist units. As with any mental health nurse role, you’ll monitor patients’ physical health and provide treatment while responding to emergencies and, working on risk management and safety, preparing patients for discharge.
  • Community mental health teams include localised healthcare settings such as GP surgeries, prisons, schools, community healthcare centres, and patients’ homes. You’ll support people with mental health problems within their local areas. These roles focus more on advocacy, medical administration, counselling, and care planning.
  • Residential and nursing homes can include care homes, assisted living facilities, or rehabilitation centres. Within these settings, you’ll work with patients such as the elderly, those experiencing addiction issues, or people with long-term mental health conditions who can’t live independently. You might also support service users with physical health challenges to manage co-occurring mental health difficulties.

Agencies can also employ mental health nurses to take on temporary work placements in different settings. Agency nursing can provide a lot of variety and allows you to quickly build up your skills and experience as you work with different patient groups and health professionals in many different environments. It also offers valuable opportunities to build your network at different organisations, which can help you to secure further work.

The role of a mental health nurse employed by an agency is very similar to that of a permanent nurse, but your specific responsibilities will depend on the short-term gap in staffing you’re fulfilling.

Mental health nurse opportunities with Pulse

Whether you’re looking for flexible locum shifts or permanent roles, we can help you to take your career to the next level.

At Pulse, we’ve been working with nursing professionals for over 30 years. We have partnerships with a range of NHS and private clients, many of which we have preferred or sole supplier status with. You’ll benefit from these strong relationships with leading healthcare organisations by gaining exclusive access to exciting roles before they’re advertised anywhere else.

Register your interest to speak to one of our team or browse our current mental health nursing jobs

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