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  • 5 Things to Understand About the Future of Mental Health Nursing in Australia

    Author: HealthTimes

Some of Australia’s brightest mental healthcare providers recently gathered, along with a group of healthcare consumers and allied healthcare professionals, to investigate and discuss the future of mental health nursing in Australia and beyond. Their findings were published in the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing.

Healthcare practitioners of all varieties would be likely to benefit from understanding these researchers’ perspectives and conclusions.

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It could also be fruitful for healthcare providers to give careful thought to what role they might be able to play in improving future mental health outcomes for all patients, and also for their colleagues. Given the general shortage of healthcare workers and the shortage of mental health nurses, it is important for all healthcare workers to take responsibility for supporting the psychiatric nurses who bravely play such a critical role in Australia’s mental healthcare system. Let’s discuss some of the key takeaways that this research brings to light:

1. We Must Refocus the Role of the Mental Health Nurse

Historically, nurses have been responsible for doing sizable amounts of administrative work including paperwork and its new counterpart, keeping patients’ electronic health records up to date. While documentation is necessary, it is a time consuming endeavour that detracts from time spent on actual patient care. The study participants voiced opinions that the current documentation requirements are excessive and that they should be minimised.

The current environment is largely one where the focus is placed on audits and policy directives. Participants said that this emphasis detracts from productivity and hinders mental health nurses from achieving the actual objectives of delivering person-centred care.

The most important takeaway from this research is that mental health nurses must be empowered to cultivate therapeutic relationships with the patients they are entrusted to care for. The future of mental health nursing is almost entirely dependent on these relationships.

2. The Overly Authoritarian Approach to Mental Healthcare Must Change

Participants believe that the current approach to mental healthcare has become stale and outdated. Our understanding of mental health issues has increased, but our methods for delivering treatment have not kept pace with our understanding. The researchers inform us that change is an absolute necessity.

One of their primary objections was to the current over-reliance on medication. They also objected to what they described as being a universal approach to mental health services. They want to see mental healthcare services shift from being authoritarian to being more person-centred.

3. Colleagues Must Properly Value the Mental Health Nurses They Work With

The study participants were in agreement with our own observations that mental health nurses have been horrifically undervalued. It’s our mental health nurses who spend the most time with our patients, yet their expertise is routinely overlooked and ignored when these patients’ treatment decisions are made.

4. Nurse Job Satisfaction Must Be Prioritised

Given all the above observations, it should not shock anyone that mental health nurses’ job satisfaction levels have been low. Nurse retention levels have been similarly low. To combat high turnover rates, study participants suggested that professional development opportunities could be one possible way to empower nurses and increase their job satisfaction levels.

5. Australia Urgently Needs More Well-Trained and Capable Psychiatric Nurses

Retaining nurses is critical if we hope to enjoy a properly functioning healthcare system in the future. Beyond that, it’s also crucial to train new nurses who have the specialised capabilities that empower them to properly care for mental health patients. Another one of the most important takeaways from this research: It is ideal for mental health nurses to attain expertise in their specialty by undertaking coursework at the postgraduate level.

Any relevant postgraduate study could be useful, but a graduate certificate in mental health is one of the most straightforward ways to acquire expertise in the collaborative and integrative practices that characterise the optimal future of mental healthcare.

Next Steps

We must make it a high priority to implement the changes that need to be made for optimising the system and bringing it up to date. Our mental health nurses must be empowered to practice at the highest standard of care they are capable of delivering. This could be expected to raise the level of mental wellness across Australia. In the long term, it would also be likely to ease some of the burdens on the entire mental healthcare system.


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