How to become a Mental Health Nurse RMN
12th January 2011
In this article we will focus on mental health nursing jobs in acute settings. An acute setting is defined by the short-term nature of the treatment provided to a patient in that particular instance. A mental health acute setting will usually provide inpatient care and treatment to help stabilize a patient’s condition before the normal course of therapy can resume, or in the case of a first time admission they will formulate and implement an on-going care plan. Treatment in an acute mental health environment will usually be coordinated with the community mental health team and ongoing care plan that a patient has in place.
What is a mental health nurse?
A Mental Health Nurse or RMN is a degree or diploma qualified nurse who studied the mental health branch of nursing for either two or three years according to their course requirements. The mental health nursing course differs from the adult nursing course not only in academic content, but also in the placements available to mental health student nurses. Either route leads to the RMN qualification, rather than the RGN qualification from the adult nursing route, and once registration with the NMC has been confirmed that person can begin working as a qualified nurse.
A mental health nurse can work with any group in society from children to the elderly. The NHS predicts that as many as 1 in 3 people suffer a mental health problem at some point in their life, and the need for qualified mental health nurses is as strong as ever. There are different opportunities available for mental health nurses in both the private and public sectors, and each sector offers its own benefits.
The key skills of an RMN Nurse differ from a RGN Nurse, not that either one is more or less qualified, but the skill base of an RMN is much more focussed on interpersonal and communication skills. Quite often the mental health nurse will be one of the first healthcare practitioners to come in contact with a distressed or disorientated patient, and a calm approach is essential to establish a positive relationship. Listening skills are a key part of an RMN's skillset and sometimes the ability to interpret what a patient is trying to say is equally as important as listening to what they are actually saying.
Whether you end up working in the public or private healthcare sector, a mental health nurse is likely to spend more time with a patient than the consultant psychiatrist and is therefore in a better position to accurately monitor the patient’s condition. In particular, where a patient has been sectioned and is in a secure setting it can feel very intimidating for them and be a barrier to effective treatment. A mental health nurse can help to alleviate any feelings of anxiety or negativity using their communication skills in order to help the patient work towards their recovery.
What career opportunities are there for RMN Nurses in acute settings?
There are many different career paths for RMN Nurses, and the acute settings that RMNs can work in vary from a medical ward for the elderly to a secure psychiatric intensive care unit. A acute mental health service can cater for all ranges of mental health condition, and an inpatient unit provides a safe environment for assessment and treatment of patients who need in-depth assistance. Patients that need to be stabilised through therapy or medication benefit from an inpatient environment because they can receive a higher level of attention than being treated in the community, and this can help the original cause of the episode to pass.
The NHS offers a wide variety of career paths for mental health nurses, and there is a range of settings you could work in. Prison nursing is often very appealing for RMNs because there is the opportunity to offer care to individuals who otherwise may chose not to access the support they are entitled to. In many parts of the country prison nurses are employed by the local NHS trusts and seconded to prisons accordingly, and it can be regarded in some areas as an acute setting.
Working with patients who have dementia is also a challenging area of mental health nursing. Dementia is most common in elderly patients, but can affect people in mid-life as well. As an RMN working with a patient who has dementia, you will be required to assess and monitor the condition as well as provide support for immediate family members who usually act as the primary carers. An experienced RMN nurse can also provide education to local healthcare teams that may be involved in managing the care of the patient and help them to understand that patient as an individual.
Treating patients with a substance misuse problem is another rewarding area for an RMN to specialise in. Alcohol or drug dependency can be an influencing factor on a patient’s condition, and can either be the cause or result of a mental health problem. Working with a psychiatrist, a mental health nurse can help a patient to recover from their substance misuse problems and enable the original mental health problem to be treated and potentially resolved.
How do I become a mental health nurse?
First you need to apply to a university for a mental health nursing course. The 2 year diploma option is being phased out, so the most common option offered is the 3 year degree course, which can lead to either a BN or BSc Bachelor of Nursing / Mental Health. The course consists of academic work and practical placement experience, which together fulfills the requirement for the NMC to give your professional registration as a practising nurse. This is called your NMC pin number, and every nurse and midwife practising in the UK has to have this in order to maintain their employment.
Getting onto a mental health nursing course can be difficult if you don’t have a strong CV and personal statement, but if you’re committed and determined you can definitely succeed. It’s a good idea to only apply to mental health branch on your UCAS application, otherwise it could appear to an admissions officer that you aren’t 100% sure about a career as a mental health nurse.
How can I find mental health nursing jobs?
Nurses.co.uk offers a wide range of mental health nursing jobs in acute settings. You can search for your ideal RMN Job by location or employers currently advertising. Some employers advertise directly and others contract a recruitment agency to handle their recruitment. Either way, you can be assured of a wide range of mental health nursing jobs.