A pre-registration nursing degree or diploma that is accredited by the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) is required in order to work as a mental health nurse. These are three-year courses that combine theoretical and practical training and lead to registration with the NMC.
The nursing programmes can be taken in four disciplines:
Candidates usually need to choose their discipline before beginning the course. The first year of the course is spent studying common foundation modules that cover all branches of nursing. The next two years are then spent specialising in the chosen discipline. Some degree courses may take up to four years to complete.
Part-time courses are available, which take five to six years. These are particularly useful for those who wish to work and study at the same time. If working in the NHS, perhaps at an assistant practitioner level, the candidate will usually get support from the employer and may get help with funding and study leave.
Graduates from a health-related first degree, e.g. biomedical sciences, biology, psychology, etc, may be able to enter a shortened nursing programme that takes two years to complete. Candidates must usually demonstrate an interest in nursing and some experience, such as voluntary work, caring for a relative, etc. Entry requirements vary across institutions and candidates should contact the individual university to find out more details.
A postgraduate qualification is not required to become a mental health nurse. However, postgraduate courses are available after becoming a registered nurse to enable career progression.
Statutory bursaries and tuition fees for degree and diploma nursing programmes are available in each part of the UK. Further information is available from course providers or:
Candidates for work in mental health nursing will need to show evidence of:
The ability to empathise with and show warmth towards the people you are caring for is very important.
Work experience will always be of use when applying for courses or jobs to show your interest and dedication to the profession. Voluntary work in a hospital, mental health charity or community work will all be beneficial. Any other work experience that involves caring for others will also help.
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