In the first of our ongoing series about nursing specialisms, we kick off with the job of the Registered Mental Nurse. What does a mental health nurse do and what are the challenges and rewards? We speak to an RMN to find out. About Matt Farrah - follow me on Google+

We’ve already interviewed Ben (Farrah) elsewhere on (see Ben Farrah - my RMN job as a Senior Staff Nurse on a PICU. So we must thank him for his time again. Since mental health nursing in the UK is a jobs sector demanding more skilled candidates we felt it might offer someone the chance to become interested in this specialism.

The huge growth area for RMNs to work with the elderly and also with dementia patients is obvious. There are currently 22,000 care homes in the UK, many of which are for elderly patients, with many more being built as we write this.

So job opportunities for RMNs are many and growing, as evidenced on this site of course.

There are other options for the trained and qualified mental health nurse too: prisons, open wards and secure units.

Ben works on the latter, working in a PICU. A PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit) nurse is presented with challenges and variety as a daily feature of the job. During his nurse training, Ben explains, moving toward mental health as a vocation seemed completely natural: “I knew I wanted to study mental health. I was, of course, interested in general nurse practices, but was drawn to psychiatric health issues especially. I was aware of the challenges of course, but it seemed a perfect fit for my education and interests up to that point."

The education he referred to encompassed psychology and even a degree in divinity. Yes, divinity. “I’ve always enjoyed attempts to understand the human condition. Working with patients who have various mental health issues seemed to dovetail nicely.”

You make working as a PICU nurse appealing. Is it all about therapeutic care and psychiatric nurturing? “No. That would be nice. No, it’s demanding and at times extremely challenging. But you’re supported by a trained, disciplined team. In fact, last year, I could have moved to another ward but chose to stay because of the strong team ethos we have.”

What skills do you bring to that team then? “It depends on the situation I suppose. But we all need to be able to demonstrate an ability to assess patients, provide clear and unequivocal boundaries to them, and monitor behaviour trends. Patience can’t be over-estimated. Nor can a good, healthy sense of humour for the more trying days.”

So I can imagine you at work, what does it look like? “It’s a secure ward. It’s locked and has just 5 staff and 10 patients. At times it’s quiet, at other times less so. I suppose just like any working environment. But in certain respects very unlike other environments.”

And do you feel that working as an RMN is satisfying? Do you feel you get a lot back? We interview a lot of nurses and the overriding message is a really positive one about helping a fellow human being improve their situation. Is that an over-statement? “I don’t think so, no. Of course, nurses are, to a certain extent, just doing a job, whatever specialism they happen to have followed. There’s training and paperwork and managers and staff to manage and chief executives and budgets. But the fact that you’re here to help other people is something that you’re reminded of very often! In answer to your question, yes it is very satisfying.

“And not just the social care aspect either. I work as part of a team that includes allied healthcare professionals - psychiatrists, occupational therapists - as well as other nurses and healthcare assistants. You’re constantly learning and that’s important and rewarding too.”

So you'd encourage others to consider the job? "They need to want to do it, and they need to feel they can do it. But, if that's the case, yes definitely. It might be worth working in social care or healthcare first though, in an unqualified capacity. Test the water before spending time taking your nursing degree is the way forward."