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Why study mental health nursing?

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The role of a mental health nurse can bring many challenges but is also highly rewarding. If you’re considering studying for a mental health nursing degree, here you can explore some of the fantastic reasons to choose a career in this area of nursing.

An elderly lady sat in a chair in a messy living room

What does a mental health nurse do?

A mental health nurse offers support to a wide range of patients with various mental health conditions, aiding them towards recovery and helping them gain control over their illness to live more independently. Building relationships with patients and their families and/or carers is a fundamental part of the job, so you’ll need to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to become a mental health nurse.

The roles and responsibilities of a mental health nurse can include providing treatment to patients (whether that’s administering medication or offering therapy to improve their social skills), assessing patients to ensure they’re getting the appropriate care they need, maintaining health records and conducting risk assessments, and continuously monitoring progress. Mental health nurses liaise with a lot of different health professionals from psychiatrists to occupational therapists to social workers.

Other essential skills you’ll need in mental health nursing include critical thinking skills, good observational skills, sound judgement, excellent problem-solving skills, emotional resilience, as well as genuine care and compassion. If this sounds like you, then studying for a mental health nursing degree could be the right fit for you.

Four reasons to study mental health nursing

1. It's a diverse area of nursing

One of the most appealing reasons to study for a mental health nursing degree is that the nature of this field of nursing is incredibly diverse. No two days on the job will be the same and you could be working in a variety of settings with lots of different people from a range of backgrounds.

Most graduates of the BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing Practice course at Sunderland go on to work for the NHS, whether that be based in a hospital (such as a psychiatric ward, specialist unit, or outpatients clinic) or in the community (such as a GP surgery, prison, care home, school, or within patients’ homes). Some have also ended up working in private healthcare or for mental health charities, and there’s now more demand for mental health nurses in the armed forces, so the options are varied.

2. There are excellent job prospects

Whichever career path you choose as a mental health nurse, you’ll find there are some excellent job prospects available. Given that you’ll need to renew your registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) every three years, there’ll always be a necessity to continue your professional development. You may decide that you want to specialise in a certain area of mental health nursing, for example, working with children, the elderly, or those with a more specific mental illness like an eating disorder.

If you work for the NHS, you’ll start your career as a mental health nurse at band 5 with an initial salary of £28,407, which will increase to £34,581 once you reach the top of your band. As your experience develops, you’ll have the opportunity to work your way up each salary band, and you might consider progressing into more senior management roles such as an approved clinician, advanced nurse practitioner, or a consultant, although you may need a master's degree in some cases.

"It’s harder to recruit mental health nurses. Some people still don’t know enough about mental health nursing as a career and mental health is still viewed as a bit mysterious by the public. There’s a shortage, but if you choose mental health nursing, there’s a good career trajectory into specialist and therapist roles."

Clare Brizzolara
Senior Lecturer in Nursing

3. It's rewarding

Becoming a mental health nurse will mean making a real difference to the lives of those suffering from mental illness, and seeing your patients overcome their barriers can be extremely rewarding. Although it’s certainly a career that can be stressful and challenging at times – both physically and mentally – the varied manner of the job means it can also be exhilarating too.

Helping someone combat mental illness isn’t a quick fix, and you’ll likely be working with patients and their families over quite a long period of time, giving you the chance to build trust and establish a bond with them. Achieving this mutual satisfaction between nurse and patient is one of the many reasons a career in mental health nursing is so appealing.

4. You'll be in high demand

One in four people will suffer from some form of mental illness during their lifetime, and we’re currently experiencing a shortage of mental health nurses in the UK. As the largest professional group, mental health nurses are key workers and are now more in demand than ever before. On a positive note, this means that once you graduate, your chances of securing a mental health nursing role might be higher than if you were to study a different type of degree.

Two student nurses looking down at clipboards in the mock hospital ward

Studying on the BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing Practice course

We offer an undergraduate mental health nursing course at Sunderland – the BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing Practice. This degree will allow you to graduate and register with the NMC as a qualified mental health nurse. You’ll explore a wide range of modules to equip you with skills in the application of evidence-based practice, the confidence to work and offer support in a diverse range of settings, and the ability to deliver restorative interventions to people experiencing mental illness and distress.

During each year of your studying, you’ll complete a practice placement with one of our partner Trusts to improve your knowledge and skills in various clinical settings.

As a trainee mental health nurse, you’ll also benefit from our fantastic nursing facilities at our Living Lab and Helen McArdle House which are home to some advanced sector simulation equipment and a mock mental health ward where you can enhance your nursing practice in a safe environment.


Have we convinced you that a career in mental health nursing could be a great choice? Find out more and apply now by visiting the course page or join us on campus for an Open Day.

Published: 11 August 2023