When you become an accredited mental health nurse in Australia, career opportunities open up. But how do you do it?
Let’s go through the steps you need to take to become a mental health nurse.
Step 1: Get a Bachelor of Nursing Degree
The first step to becoming a mental health nurse in Australia is to study for a Bachelor of Nursing degree.
A Bachelor of Nursing is a 3-year university degree that qualifies you to become a Registered Nurse (RN). You should have solid maths and science ability to gain entry to the program and complete it successfully.
Without a bachelor degree, your only other option would be to work in mental health nursing as an Enrolled Nurse (EN). We’ll cover that option later in the article.
Step 2: Become a Registered Nurse
After receiving your Bachelor degree, the next step is to apply to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia to practice as a registered nurse.
A Bachelor of Nursing qualification is the main thing you need for RN registration. But there are some other requirements, such as English language skills and a background check.
RN registration needs to be renewed annually. To keep your status as a registered nurse, you’re also required to do continuing professional development and to maintain recency of practice.
Step 3: Gain Experience in the Mental Health Field
As a Registered Nurse, you’re able to start working in mental health. You can’t call yourself an accredited mental health nurse yet. And you may struggle to secure good jobs. But you can gain experience by working in a mental health unit or in supporting mental health practitioners.
Gaining relevant experience will help with each of the last 3 steps to become a mental health nurse.
Step 4: Do an Accredited Course in Mental Health Nursing
Step 4 is to study mental health nursing as specialisation. You need to do this to become an accredited mental health nurse. The postgraduate courses that allow you to be eligible to become a mental health nurse are listed by the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN).
To qualify as a mental health nurse, you need to an accredited Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing or Master in Mental Health Nursing. These are normally 8-subject and 12-subject courses respectively.
The postgraduate courses are available online and you can do them on a part-time basis while working full-time. A study program may require you to have access to mental health practice through your work, either to a mental health facility of some kind or to a qualified practitioner.
Step 5: Apply for Credentialing with ACMHN
The next step is to apply for the ACMHN Credential. According to ACMHN, this is “the only nationally consistent standard for recognition of specialist mental health nurses”.
A number of criteria apply, including that you:
- are a Registered Nurse (Division 1)
- hold a recognised specialist mental health nursing qualification
- have worked for at least 12 months since gaining your qualification or have 3+ years’ experience as an RN working in mental health
- have support from two professional referees.
Step 6: Apply for Mental Health Nursing Jobs
The final step is to apply for mental health nursing jobs. You should find a wide range of positions that you’re eligible to apply for, including registered nurse working in mental health, mental health nurse, nurse coordinator, case worker, liaison clinician and health services manager.
Each job opening will have different criteria. Some may require you to be an accredited mental health nurse. Some may require that you’re as least eligible for the credential. Others may just expect that you have some experience in the field. Whatever the criteria, you should be well positioned to find a good job after having completed all the previous steps.
Become a Mental Health Nurse Without a Degree
You can also do mental health nursing without a degree. This is the Enrolled Nurse (EN) route. The steps are as follows.
- Complete a Diploma of Nursing (Enrolled Nurse) with a TAFE or college.
- Register as an Enrolled Nurse with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.
- Do an Advanced Diploma of Nursing specialising in Mental Health.
- Apply for mental health nursing jobs.
Enrolled nurses generally work under the supervision of a registered nurse to provide nursing care. As an enrolled nurse, you can apply for mental health jobs in similar settings as registered nurses. The main difference is that you are likely to work in more of a hands-on or support role.