Master of Mental Health Nursing: Answering the Shortage of Mental Health Professionals

Mental health is a critical component of general health and well-being. But the recent global health issue brought a huge increase in cases of anxiety and depression.

This upsurge stresses the need for the services of mental health professionals. There is, however, a shortage of this valuable profession.

If you are a nurse who plans to pursue a specialist career in mental health, this should be an opportunity for you. You can enter this field through a Masters in Mental Health Nursing.

Mental Health Statistics in Australia

Even before the pandemic, mental health illness was already a prevalent problem in Australia. It affected children, adults, and older people. 

Different studies on mental health and well-being reveal that the disorder still affects thousands today. Below are some of the notable data shown in various publications. 

  • Over 40% of Australians aged 16-85 experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime.
  • More females than males experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime.
  • Males had a higher prevalence of psychotic illness than females.
  • Individuals aged 15-24 years had the highest percentage of mental or behavioral conditions.
  • The most prevalent mental disorder was attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD).
  • Other prevalent mental disorders were anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, and conduct disorder.
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What all these data point to is that there is an urgent need for mental health services. 

But the Department of Health in Australia states it does not have enough staff in its healthcare system. The agency estimates that if the shortage dilemma continues, the country will have fewer than 40% of the mental health nurses it needs in 2030. 

The Basics of Mental Health Nursing 

Mental health nursing is a specialised branch of nursing that focuses on caring for mental health patients. It is for professionals who want to undertake units to obtain the skills necessary to function as a specialist.

The most common way to become a specialist mental health nurse is to:

  1. Study for an undergraduate Bachelor of Nursing degree;
  2. Practice as a nurse in a mental health setting; and,
  3. Undertake further postgraduate study at the Graduate or Master’s level. 

Mental health nurses undergo generalist training and specialist mental health training. They receive education on the mental illness indicators in a patient. The proficiency will also qualify them to provide physical health care evaluations.

A Master of Mental Health Nursing program helps students to:

  • Build on their nursing practice;
  • Obtain a holistic understanding of mental health issues and their effects on society;
  • Be capable of working within interdisciplinary groups;
  • Apply up-to-date care procedures for diverse and vulnerable groups; and, 
  • Acquire valuable skills to help devise improved health outcomes for mental health patients.

What does a mental health nurse do?

The chief responsibilities of a mental health nurse are:

  • Providing direct and continuous practical and psychological support to mental health patients. 
  • Delivering complex interventions and evaluations to develop the best possible outcome for patients.
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The range of mental illnesses that mental health nurses support include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Delusion
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Eating disorders
  • Alcohol dependence
  • Drug dependence

What are the qualifications for a mental health nurse?

Further training is necessary to qualify as a mental health nurse. Entry requirements to undertake a Master of Mental Health Nursing program may include the following:

  • Completed Bachelor of Nursing or equivalent qualification
  • Registration as a Registered Nurse or Registered Midwife or equivalent registration with a relevant registering authority
  • Written confirmation from the employer stating employment in a mental health setting
  • Completed Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Nursing or Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing 

Once you qualify to work as a mental health nurse, you can continue to complete other short courses that will advance your career. 

How much does a mental health nursing program cost?

The tuition fee varies from school to school and will depend on where you will take the course. You can choose between on-campus or online schooling. 

  • Cost per unit – from $2,000 to $3,000
  • Cost per credit hour – around $1,000 to $2,000
  • Tuition per year – $50,000 to $60,000 

How much does a mental health nurse practitioner earn in Australia?

The average salary for a mental health nurse in Australia is $96,839 per year or $49.66 per hour. For entry-level roles, the pay starts at $79,081 per year. Experienced mental health nurses earn up to $119,535 per year.

What are the career options for a Master of Mental Health Nursing?

Master of Mental Health Nursing will position you to assume roles in:

  • Mental health care coordination
  • Leadership roles in mental health services
  • Senior mental health services
  • Seasonal academic work
  • Specialist or therapist roles
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Why study mental health nursing

Mental health nurses have a vast opportunity to work in diverse areas. They work with people of all ages, from children to seniors. 

Some mental health conditions are more common in specific age groups than other disorders. Other illnesses affect anyone at any age. 

Mental health nurses also have different areas to work in. These include hospitals, care homes, schools, communities, prisons, and private care.

Do you fit the bill?

To work as a mental health professional, you need traits like patience, empathy, and composure. It will also help if you are sociable since you will work with other healthcare professionals.  

Working as a mental health nurse does not come without its challenges. You need to take care of your well-being, too. 

Healthcare professionals are inclined to experience burnout. Working full-time with distressed patients can have serious effects on your psyche.  

You need to possess resilience and strength in character to deal with various behaviours that mental health patients may display. 

But the specialised training provided by a Master in Mental Health Nursing program will prepare a mental health nurse to deal with different cases. 

Final Thoughts

Being in the mental health field can be a challenging profession, but it is a rewarding one. Your job as a mental health nurse is significant in treating individuals who need specialised care to sustain their well-being. 

With the Master of Mental Health Nursing, you can gain the knowledge and skills to help people with mental illnesses recover and face society confidently. 

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