• 16 December 2019
  • 4 min read

What mental health nurses actually do

  • Ben Farrah
    Charge Nurse on a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)
    • Morven Reddy
  • 0
  • 3798

Despite the common misconception, mental health nursing is not just about organising fun events in nursing homes as PICU Charge Nurse, Ben, explains.

Not only are the potential roles for an RMN extremely wide and varied (there’s a bit more to it than organising bingo in a nursing home) the remit of the mental health nurse is not entirely rigid or pre-determined from one institution to another.

As such, mental health nursing is as determined by regional differences in service provision and demographics as the needs of the particular patient group.

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Nursing communicators

As a general rule, but increasingly not always the case, many newly qualified mental health nurses will find positions in acute care settings, working with those patients detained under the Mental Health Act.

In this role the nurse will act as advocate for the patient’s rights, will engage with friends and families to both inform and support, develop a package of care with the patient and ensure that the patient is adhering to his/her treatment plan (the often contentious matter of taking prescribed medication).

Most wards actively promote patients’ involvement in group activities and will involve themselves in these groups and similarly make themselves available to those activities and events outside the hospital, where staffing levels permit.

Patient planning

Ward or acute nurses will liaise with community mental health teams and plan with these teams and the patient for his/her discharge, ensuring that accommodation and appropriate support packages are in place.

A nurse may choose to work with older persons, female or male patients or in Psychiatric Intensive Care Units (PICU), secure units or prisons.

Senior nurses also assist in the management of Assessment Suites for those persons detained by the police on Section 136 MHA.

Community mental health nursing

The community mental health nurse often has a large patient group to manage and will work with this patient group to monitor mental health, assist in social needs, adhere to care packages and work at relapse prevention. Learn more.

This work places a greater emphasis on the individual worker who will take responsibility for their patients group as opposed to the ward nurse who shares responsibility of care with the wider ward team.

Community teams themselves may undertake varied roles, Crisis Resolution, Assertive Outreach, Assessment teams (at both general hospitals and mental health hospitals), Court Diversion and Liaison, Street Triage (with the police).

Again, none of these roles can be clearly defined as Care Commissioning Groups have varied requirements of the provision of mental health services.

Manage care pathways

The one constant is that the nurse will be expected to offer legal and pastoral support, to manage complex care pathways, engage with the wider Multi Disciplinary Team, police and custodial services, distressed families and sometimes, a challenging patient group. 

Related articles

What does a Mental Health Nurse do?

What is forensic mental health, and how did I end up working in it?

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  • Ben Farrah
    Charge Nurse on a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)

About the author

  • Ben Farrah
    Charge Nurse on a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)

I'm a Charge Nurse with twelve years post-qualifying experience currently working within the NHS on an all-male Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

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