The daily lives of nurses have been well documented and play an active role in the media. Mental health nursing has not been given the same level of positive attention.
The duties and responsibilities of a mental health nurse are somewhat more specialist. It is often viewed negatively in the media and is often stigmatised. The portrayal of mental health facilities in TV and Film has not helped. This kind of exposure leads people to believe that mental health nurses are uncaring and merciless. The reality could not be further from the truth.
Mental health nurses face different challenges every day. Aside from having to support people who could be at their emotional rock bottom, they can also come up against unpredictable or even aggressive behaviour. Drug and alcohol misuse can also make aggravated situations worse. Mental health nurses need to be able to adapt quickly to changing situations while demonstrating clear thinking and a professional approach.
This can bring with it no small amount of stress, and some days will be emotionally draining as well as physically. However, the help you can provide your patients more than makeup for the tougher days.
To do their job correctly, mental health nurses need to display certain character traits. They need to be caring, empathetic and patient to name just three. They also need to be friendly, confident, and personable as building a rapport quickly with patients will allow for more effective treatments.
The care of a mental health nurse doesn’t stop at just the patient either. Mental health nurses provide extended support to the support network of patients also.
Differences between Nursing and Mental Health Nursing
There are many differences between other areas of nursing and mental health nursing. One of the most noticeable differences is the patients’ response to treatment. A patient with a broken bone is almost always going to be grateful for the help they receive.
This isn’t always the case for patients receiving treatment for their mental health. For someone suffering from mental health, one of the first steps to recovery is realising that they are unwell. If they do not realise or cannot accept, that they are unwell, it can make the mental health nurse’s job harder. Not least because the patient won’t understand they’re being treated.
This can lead to patients refusing medication, attempts to deceive or lie about their condition, and even resent the nurse for offering help and support.
Whist a stressful part of their job, this is an opportunity for mental health nurses to flourish. Not only do they have to care for the patient effectively, but they also must find different ways of managing the challenges poor mental health can bring. All of these things require high levels of empathy, understanding and excellent communication skills. The ability to reassure those who are frightened, agitated or even aggressive is also necessary.
As you can imagine, all of the above can be quite stressful for someone to deal with day in, day out, however, you will be trained to detach yourself from these experiences. But the reward of seeing someone’s health improve and knowing the difference you’re making to them and their support network is fantastic!
Why can Mental Health Nursing be stressful?
As a mental health nurse, you are helping people with a range of issues and challenges. These could be anything from severe anxiety and depression to psychosis, or personality disorders. As a result, you can often be present during the individual’s darkest times.
Mental health nurses are there for the long run. Some patients will be with you for a matter of days and weeks, whereas others may be over months or sometimes even years. Some patient’s road to recovery can be long and bumpy and while improvement takes time, those signs of recovery always bring with them a sense of fulfilment.
Support networks can become very involved in the recovery process, as they can offer support. Severe or enduring mental health issues can take a considerable toll on friends and relatives too. This is largely due to the individual’s support network trying to help but not always knowing how and being forced to standby and watch the situation worsen. Part of a mental health nurse’s role is offering help and advice to the support network as well as the patient. This can be difficult because you are sometimes dealing with damaged relationships. Trust is often an issue and that takes time to rebuild. But enhancing their relationship whilst supporting the patient makes the effort completely worth it.
Mental health nursing not only is mentally stressful, but it can also be physically stressful too. Mental health nursing requires a good level of physical fitness and strength. Obviously, your role will differ based on the needs of the patient. But most patients will require physical handling.
This is because some patients will have less ability than others. Some patients will need help with everyday activities such as bathing or dressing. This will require your physical assistance. Some patients may also need restraining if they become distressed or confused. Whilst physically restraining a patient, you need to ensure they remain safe and unharmed. All patients are risk-assessed and any patients with a history of violence or aggression, are co-worked to reduce any risk.
Can I be a Mental Health Nurse?
If you are reading this and thinking that you would like to pursue a career in mental health nursing, learndirect can help you.
There are some different routes of getting to where you want to be. learndirect offers both Access to Higher Education Diplomas, and also knowledge-based courses surrounding mental health. The numerous mental health courses that are on offer will teach you the basics of supporting people who are experiencing mental health issues.
Written by a subject expert, our Access to Higher Education Diplomas are tailored to fit your specific subject needs. In terms of mental health nursing, there would be a few different courses that can lay the brickwork of your path.
An Access to HE Diploma in Social Science – Psychology and Sociology pathway will teach you the foundations of the socioeconomic factors within mental health.
An Access to HE Diploma in Social Science and Health – Biology pathway will provide you with a balanced view of Biological Science, Social Science and Healthcare topics to allow you to make the best decisions for your future.
An Access to HE Diploma in Health Professionals offers you an ample overview of the healthcare system. Following the completion of this diploma, you will be eligible to apply for a place on many healthcare-related undergraduate programs.
Finally, an Access to HE Diploma in Nursing is a brilliant way to improve your future career prospects, laying down the foundations in nursing. This diploma covers all aspects of nursing, including the physical health side of nursing.