- 08 January 2019
- 6 min read
RMN nurse jobs
What does it mean to be a mental health nurse and what are the challenges and rewards? Two RMNs explain what being a mental health nurse means, from their perspective.
Mental health services in 2019
Mental health nursing in the UK is a jobs sector demanding more and more skilled candidates from a pool where skills and qualified nurses are ever-harder to find.
In 2016 there were 11.8 million UK residents aged 65 and over, representing 18% of the total UK population. Current trends estimate that by 2066 this will have increased to 20.4 million or 26%.
Further, mental health services are regularly in the news and successive Governments promise additional funds to mental health care and nursing.
Therefore, there is huge requirement for RMNs not only to work with the growing elderly population but service users in acute and community settings, prisons, open wards, secure units and specialist services such as CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), eating disorders and perinatal services.
We talk to two RMNs
Mental health nursing is sometimes considered negatively against general nursing. It's seen as hard and challenging. So we wanted to ask nurses themselves what does being a mental health nurse mean, and what are the challenges and rewards of working in this sector in 2019?
Ben Farrah - Charge Nurse on a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)
We’ve already interviewed Ben elsewhere on Nurses.co.uk (see Ben Farrah - my RMN job as a Senior Staff Nurse on a PICU.) So we must thank him for his time again.
Ben works as a charge nurse 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 you refer to encompassed psychology and even a degree in... divinity?
Is there anything to explain there as it's not the usual nursing career path?
“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 sound 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, some years back, 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 'work' 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?
“Yes. We're helping other humans and that's really rewarding. 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."
Chloe Lawrence - newly qualified mental health nurse
Chloe explains in this video why she loves her job
Chloe, can you explain your work setting?
I work in a mental health nurse job, working on a CAMHS ward (Children and adolescent mental health services). We have 15 young people at any one time, its safe to say that any empty beds which crop up don’t stay empty for long!
As a newly qualified mental health nurse, there are a lot of challenges I face - you can read more about that on another blog I wrote here on Nurses.co.uk.
So, very young right up to late teenagers?
Our young people range in age from 13-17 and they can be admitted for any number of reasons; self harm, suicidality, psychosis, ASD and more.
One thing that sets CAMHS units apart is that we often have a lot more informal patients (i.e. not detained under the mental health act) than sectioned patients.
Is it emotionally challenging?
You’re likely to see a lot more self harm than is typical on an adult ward, this can range from ligatures, cutting, ingesting toxic substances/items to self neglect.
My line of work is particularly challenging because our young people experience all the ‘typical’ teenage issues like puberty, mood swings, relationship and friendship difficulties, but then have the added complication of mental health problems.
We also have to juggle the importance of empowering them to make decisions about their own care, whilst involving family members/carers and recognising when decisions need to be made for them in their best interest.
So if you think the mental health nursing sounds like the right job for you then give it a go.
So long as you’re a caring person who has a passion for helping others I have no doubt that you will love your future career as much as I do.
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