What do Mental Health Nurses do?

Mental Health Nursing is a demanding but rewarding career choice. The role would require you to support a person through their mental health condition and enable them to have more involvement in and control over their condition.

So, what do Mental Health Nurses do?

For some people, mental health issues can be triggered by an event such as divorce, death, birth, substance abuse or changes in circumstances at work, others are affected by long term chronic conditions which need to be managed throughout their lives. The role of a Mental Health Nurse is to build effective relationships with patients who use mental health services and also their relatives or carers, whether that’s helping them to take their medication correctly, or advising about relevant therapies or social activities.

You should be able to establish trusting relationships quickly, to help the individual understand their situation and get the best possible outcome. You’ll also be trained to understand the legal context of your work and be able to identify whether and when someone may be at risk of hurting themselves or someone else.

Helping people return to good mental health is every bit as valuable and satisfying as caring for those with physical illnesses.


Some of the tasks you may be expected to do on a daily basis include:

  • Assess patients by discussing their mental health conditions with them
  • Provide treatment to patients and ensure medications are correctly administered
  • Work to understand the source of patients’ disorders
  • Conduct one-on-one therapy sessions
  • Prepare patients’ records and maintain them effectively
  • Conduct risk assessments on patients
  • Monitor their progress with their family
  • Ensure all legal requirements are complied with.

Where will I work?

Mental Health Nurses are usually based in hospitals or the community, as this is where the majority of mental healthcare is offered. Wherever you work, you may be required to do shifts to provide round the clock care.

In a hospital role, you may work in:

  • Psychiatric intensive care unit
  • Psychiatric ward
  • Outpatient unit
  • Specialist unit dealing with eating disorders

In the community, you may work in:

  • GP surgery
  • Prison
  • Community healthcare centre
  • Residential centre
  • In patients’ own homes

Characteristics and traits:

To become a Mental Health Nurse, your personality and communication skills are crucial. You’ll be warm, engaging and be able to teach patients to fight the social stigma of mental health issues, which can be as hard to overcome as the condition itself. Thinking on your feet and staying calm are also useful traits for a Mental Health Nurse. The skills you’ll use on a daily basis include:

  • Problem solving
  • Using good judgement
  • Offering advice
  • Interpersonal communication.

What do our Mental Health Nursing staff and students think?

“I think a great thing my course has taught me is that I am now more mature in my outlook to life, I have realised that instead of taking things at face value, I am now more analytical. I no longer get offended quickly by people’s behaviour; I’m more understanding of the intricate influences of past experiences on people’s presenting behaviours.”

–          Portia Nyamakanga, BSc Mental Health Nursing student.

Over 20 years I’ve worked in the community with adults with chronic mental health problems, inpatient rehab with adults, older people with dementia and I’ve supported adults with learning disabilities living in the community too.  Regardless of where I’ve worked, no two days were ever the same and every day has been an opportunity to build on relationships and support people to live their best lives. I’ve had a great career and if you like working with people, being a mental health nurse might be for you”

–          Philip Jones, Senior Lecture in BSc Mental Health Nursing

How do I become a Mental Health Nurse?

If you’re looking to become a Mental Health Nurse, it’s a professional qualification so you’ll need to study at degree level, whether that’s here at Birmingham City University, or somewhere else. Whether you choose to take on a degree, or an apprenticeship, is up to you.

Entry requirements will vary depending on how and where you would like to study. Check out our entry requirements.

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