Mental Health Nurse

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A Mental Health Nurse (MHN) is a nurse that is qualified in the care of those suffering from a wide range of mental disorders.

Qualified MHNs undergo a period of education at university and obtain both an academic and a vocational qualification. The academic qualification can be a degree (including both BSc and BA) or a Diploma, depending upon the course of nurse education offered by the university. Such courses focus on the evidence base for a range of nursing interventions, including psychosocial interventions, family therapies and individualised problem-solving therapies. In addition the education course includes childbirth, old age and death and dying as subjects to be covered.

The vocational qualification permits the nurse to register with a professional governing body which has legal powers to investigate complaints about nurses' conduct. These powers include the being able to strike off or suspend a nurse from practicing. Most countries around the world require qualified nurses to be registered with such a body before practicing.

The range of clinical autonomy MHNs are allowed varies from country to country. Some countries, including the UK, allow mental health nurses a high level of clinical autonomy of action, including assessing, treating and discharging patients. Other countries continue to confine the role of the mental health nurse to that of a doctor's assistant, whereby a nurse cannot make a clinical decision without the direct approval of, or reference to, a medical member of staff.

Mental health nurses occupy increasingly expanded roles within the healthcare culture, including taking on the role of therapists delivering Cognitvie Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialetical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and psychotherapy.