Reviewing nursing education literature to understand mental health

Sinead Barry – PhD candidate, Lecturer in Nursing, La Trobe University

Dr Louise Ward and Sinead Barry

Dr Louise Ward- Associate Professor Clinical Nursing Practice, La Trobe University

A literature review on the comprehensive model of nursing education was undertaken to uncover contemporary issues relating to pre-registration nursing students understandings of mental health. The majority of current literature specific to mental health nurse education centred on criticisms relating to perceived shortfalls of the comprehensive educational model.

Since the demise of the apprenticeship style of nursing education in the 1980’s discussion about mental health’s representation within nursing curriculum has been prevalent in international and national literature. Concerns are driven by a perceived lack of preparedness of graduating nursing students’ to care for clients with mental health related issues.

Nationally and internationally, it is recognised that mental health related conditions are increasingly prominent across all facets of general healthcare. Considering mental health related concerns becoming increasingly prevalent attention towards graduate nurse preparation for practice is required. What is well recognised within current literature is that the 21st century health consumer has a very different profile of complexity to any which have been seen previously. Considering the rapidly changing face of health care there is a real need for nurses to be well rounded to care for the mind and body.

There remains a growing body of literature in nursing education research highlighting concerns of graduate nurse’s ability to recognise and care for clients with mental health concerns. However, there remains a paucity of literature invested in uncovering the variation in understandings of mental health held by pre-registration nursing students. The findings from this review identify that there is a current gap in research exploring this area as a potential early intervention strategy to guide change in nursing education.

Future research exploring variations between student’s understandings of mental health at each stage of the nursing degree has potential to provide much needed information in attempt to drive nursing education into the future. Identifying variation in students’ understandings of mental health has potential to highlight threshold concepts paving the way for innovative, student centred design and development of enhanced approaches to nursing curriculum.