Currently, the entire nursing workforce in the UK is facing a staffing shortage. Though there’s been a slight increase in new nurses over the last couple of years, the need isn’t yet being met. And around 20% of the vacant nursing positions within the NHS are in mental health nursing. Evidencing that professional mental health nurses are indeed in demand.
If you’re considering this career path, there are many reasons it may appeal to you over other areas of nursing.
You’ll help patients who may be overwhelmed by what they’re thinking and feeling. Some may be experiencing low mood or depression so severely that they’re having suicidal thoughts. Other individuals may have feelings of extreme isolation making it harder for them to trust and seek support.
Whatever their challenges, you’ll work with them as they face these and act as a pillar of support during this time. You’ll aid in their recovery, providing support as they work through their challenges with therapy and other psychological treatments. You will also be on hand to provide advice that helps them to better manage their condition and reduce relapses.
This expanding and evolving area of nursing is helping people in an increasing number of ways. Which means more and more skilled professionals are required to provide these services. Resulting in workplace benefits like job security, improved employment packages and ample opportunities for progression and specialisation.
Find out more about these and what has led to the demand for mental health nurses below.
Mental Health Awareness in the Community
Mental health has been an identified cause for concern in healthcare for many years. However, it’s only relatively recently that the scale of the problem has been acknowledged, including the impact this has on the wider economy.
Now, as many as one in four people are estimated to experience a mental health issue or disorder each year in England. With evidence suggesting this costs the wider economy around £105.2 billion annually.
As such, more emphasis has been placed on the need for mental health support services and professionals. Both for early intervention and assistance once diagnosed. Though, despite the increased spending of the healthcare budget on mental health support, people are turning to private services because the NHS cannot cope with the current demand.
The influx of patients requiring support has led to high demand for mental health nurses in both the public and private sectors. This can mean jobs with more competitive packages being offered to entice qualified professionals. As a graduate mental health nurse, you’ll have considerable job opportunities to choose from.
By qualifying as a mental health nurse, you can enjoy a career with a high level of job security. Since patient care is often provided long term, it is seen more as a career for life. So, employers look for nurses who are prepared to commit themselves to patients that need ongoing support. Meaning you’re less at risk of redundancy or anything else that threatens your employment.
As mental health services evolve and expand, there is more room for progression and specialisation into other areas.
You could become a specialist nurse, where you’d work with a particular group of patients like offenders, children or the elderly. Or in a specific area of intervention like talking therapies.
If you work in a hospital setting you could take on more responsibility for the ward and the nurses you work with by becoming a nurse leader. Which often sees you having influence over healthcare policy. And being positioned to talk to government agencies about the best way to improve treatment quality and availability.
Otherwise, you could progress further into the field by becoming an advanced clinical practitioner or nurse consultant. Where you could spend time researching and improving best practice in your area of specialisation.
Salary wise, you can expect to earn between £24,907 to £30,615 (band 5) upon qualifying and up to £44,505 with experience. With the potential to reach over £50,000 a year in senior positions like a nurse consultant.
How to get started as a Mental Health Nurse
To qualify, you need to complete a degree in mental health nursing that’s approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. And to do this you’ll need to meet certain entry requirements for university. These can vary from institute to institute, so be sure to check what your preferred one requires before applying.
Traditionally, they include:
- 5 GCSEs (minimum) at grade C (4) or above - including English, maths and a science
- 2 A Levels (minimum) – including biology or human biology. An A Level in psychology or sociology is also preferable.
Other equivalent qualifications are also accepted if you don’t have the above.
Functional Skills qualifications are now well-recognised by most universities throughout the UK in place of certain GCSEs. As are Access to Higher Education Diplomas, which provide a Level 3, A Level equivalent qualification.
Access to HE Diploma (Nursing)
An Access to Higher Education Diploma is a popular choice for many aspiring nurses. As it is studied online, it allows you to complete your learning without affecting your other commitments.
Being online based means you can work through the modules whenever it suits you. This flexibility enables students to complete this two-year course on average within 9 months. So, you could be on the way to your nursing degree within a year. And qualify as a nurse in much less time.
An Access to HE Diploma (Nursing) provides a great starting point for your mental health nursing degree. Covering highly relevant topics like the responsibilities of a registered nurse, approaches to health and the history of the NHS.
It also introduces you to psychology, the brain & nervous system. All of which helps you prepare for mental health nursing at university.
These modules will provide you with a detailed understanding of many aspects that make up the role of a nurse. Something which isn’t provided in A Level study.
What’s more, there are dedicated topics designed to equip you with the academic study skills for university level learning. So, if you’ve been out of education for some time, there’s no need to worry.
You’ll also receive assistance from a dedicated professional tutor throughout your course. Who will be on hand to answer any questions you have, as well as mark and provide feedback on your work.
learndirect is the leading UK distance learning provider. With many online courses to develop your knowledge and skills in mental health and the nursing profession.
If you’d like to gain a further understanding of mental health issues, disorders and their associated needs, view our mental health faculty.
If you’re ready to take the next step toward becoming a mental health nurse, view our Access to HE Diploma (Nursing) below.