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Mental health nurse: Job description

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Mental health nurses work with people suffering from various mental health conditions and their family and carers to offer help and support in dealing with the condition. The work involves helping the patient to recover from their illness or to come to terms with it in order to lead a positive life.

The nurses may specialise in working with children or older people, or in a specific area such as eating disorders. Mental health nurses often work in multidisciplinary teams, liaising with psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, GPs, social workers and other health professionals.

As a registered mental health nurse (RMN), you may work with patients in a variety of settings including their own homes, community healthcare centres, hospital outpatients departments or specialist units, or secure residential units.

Typical work activities

The work carried out by a mental health nurse can vary depending on the setting and specialist group they are working with. But the role typically consists of:

  • caring for patients experiencing acute mental distress or who have an enduring mental illness;
  • assessing and talking to patients about their problems and discussing the best way to plan and deliver their care;
  • building relationships with patients to encourage trust, while listening to and interpreting their needs and concerns;
  • ensuring the correct administration of medication, including injections, and monitoring the results of treatment;
  • responding to distressed patients in a non-threatening manner and attempting to understand the source of distress;
  • applying 'de-escalation' techniques to help people manage their emotions and behaviour;
  • preparing and participating in group and/or one-to-one therapy sessions, both individually and with other health professionals;
  • providing evidence-based individual therapy, such as cognitive behaviour therapy for depression and anxiety;
  • encouraging patients to take part in art, drama or occupational therapy where appropriate;
  • organising social events aimed at developing patients' social skills and helping to reduce feelings of isolation;
  • preparing and maintaining patient records;
  • producing care plans and risk assessments for individual patients;
  • ensuring that the legal requirements appropriate to a particular setting or group of patients are observed;
  • working with patients' families and carers, helping to educate them and the patient about their mental health problems;
  • promoting a 'recovery' based approach to care.

In the community, the role may also involve:

  • coordinating the care of patients;
  • liaising with patients, relatives and fellow professionals in the community treatment team and attending regular meetings to review and monitor patients' care plans;
  • visiting patients in their home to monitor progress and carrying out risk assessments with regard to their safety and welfare;
  • assessing patients' behaviour and psychological needs;
  • identifying whether and when patients are at risk of harming themselves or others.

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Written by AGCAS editors
February 2014

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