Mental wellbeing is just as important as physical wellbeing so mental health nurses play a vital role in the NHS. It’s one of the most challenging areas of healthcare you can work in but through your work, you can positively affect people’s lives.

What does a mental health nurse do?

Day to day role.

Your daily work ultimately depends on which area you work in – children, the elderly, in care homes, in hospitals or in the community. It’s definitely not a desk job. You will be assessing and talking to patients, building relationships, organising and operating therapy sessions, ensuring the right medication is given, maintaining patient records, responding to distressed patients in a calm and effective manner and working with patients’ families.

No two days are ever the same and the role is tough and rewarding in equal measure. You will see things you will find distressing but equally, you’ll be able to help people improve their quality of life.

Fact: Demand for nurses in the UK is high with 1 in 10 posts unfilled according to the Institute for Employment Studies

Qualifications and experience needed.

To become a mental health nurse, you’ll need to take a nursing degree and become registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Courses last around three years and cover all aspects of nursing with lots of clinic experience involved. The first year covers general nursing with the last two specialising in the areas you wish to work in.

Specific mental health nursing degrees are available at some universities. You can work, perhaps as a healthcare assistant, and study for a degree part-time, though you won’t be a registered nurse until you finish and this typically takes around five to six years.

Fact: The NHS has a clearly defined pay structure. Newly qualified mental health nurse salaries range from £22,128 to £28,746.


You’ll need excellent observational skills to assess patients and situations. An ability to empathise with patients is also important. You need to be able to remain calm in challenging situations and physical fitness is desired, particularly when working in secure units where patients can become agitated.

In addition, you need to be able to separate yourself emotionally from your work and deal with people in a respectful and non-judgemental way.


If you love caring for others and helping improve lives you will be well suited to mental health nursing. The job can be very challenging at times so you have to know you can cope with it - there are tremendous highs but sometimes tremendous lows, too.


Once qualified, you can develop a specialism in a particular area such as substance abuse, forensic psychology or work with young offenders or children. You could go on to mentor the mental health nurses of the future, become a lecturer or carry out research.


  • Challenging but rewarding role
  • Nursing degree is essential
  • High demand for mental health nurses means plenty of job opportunities