The role of a mental health nurse can differ greatly but generally these specialist nurses provide support, education and therapy to people suffering from various mental health conditions.

Whether you’re already in the care industry or are considering entering it, we’ve produced some tips and advice to help you learn all there is to know about working as a mental health nurse.

Responsibilities of a mental health nurse.

What does a mental health nurse do? There’s no typical day or week when it comes to this role, especially as there are multiple areas that you might specialise in (substance abuse, eating disorders or geriatric care, for example).

But to give you an idea of the responsibilities involved, here’s a list of typical tasks to expect:

  • assess a patient and/or family’s mental health needs
  • develop care plans
  • consult with physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists and other medical professionals as part of a treatment team
  • administer medication
  • assist with or lead therapy sessions
  • assist patients with self-care
  • deal with challenging behaviour
  • crisis intervention and counselling


What is a mental health nurse like? Whilst there are certainly skills and qualifications you can obtain to help you in this career, these must go hand in hand with core personality traits. 

There are dozens of traits that we could list here, but here’s five of the most important for this career path:


At the heart of this role are people in need who require help


There can be no ambiguity when it comes to administering medication and handling patient paperwork


The role carries a broad mix of responsibilities so the ability to multi-task and shift quickly is crucial


Mental health issues make life a challenge for patients and their families, so nurses need to be calm and collected through potentially stressful situations


Mental illness is not always predictable, so nurses need to be attentive and observant of all behaviour to provide the best care

Qualifications for a mental health nurse job.

What do you need to become a mental health nurse? You will need a degree in mental health nursing, current registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and an enhanced background check which your employer will arrange.

If you already have a health-related degree, you might be able to join a nursing degree in the second year of a course. 

And if you are an experienced healthcare assistant or mental health support worker, you may be able to complete a part-time nursing degree by applying for a secondment.

As with most careers, specific qualifications and entry requirements vary by role and it helps to have as much relevant paid or voluntary experience as possible.


Where can a career as a mental health nurse take you? There are countless specialisms and career paths that this role opens doors to. 

With experience, you could progress to a sister or ward manager and be responsible for running a ward or managing a team of nurses. You could also go on to become a matron or director of nursing.

With further study and experience you could become an advanced nurse practitioner, a clinical nurse specialist or a nurse consultant.