Improved Mental Health Training for Undergraduate Nurses

Every year, around four million Australians experience a mental health condition and they deserve high quality health care, whenever and wherever they need it and regardless of where they live.

Nurses and midwives are the largest professional group in the health workforce and are on the frontline of our healthcare services across Australia.

An important strategy to improve the mental health and wellbeing of Australians is to ensure that all nurses who graduate have received appropriate education and mental health training, and have developed competency in the care of people with mental health issues—regardless of the clinical speciality they choose to work in.

Evidence tells us there is need for more mental health educational content in nursing degrees, so to help address this situation, the Coalition Government has provided $128,000 to the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses to undertake work to review mental health training and content in undergraduate nursing degrees. This work commenced in January 2018 and will be completed in June 2018.

The project is taking a detailed look at the current mental health content of undergraduate nursing degrees and clinical nursing placements in mental health settings.

Improved Mental Health Training for Undergraduate Nurses

The findings will feed into the development of a national framework for mental health material in undergraduate nursing programs. When finalised, the material will be distributed to Australian universities and provided to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council to inform the review of Registered Nurse Standards.

Regardless of whether or not nurses work in a mental health-specific environment, they will come into contact with people who have mental health issues. Therefore, we must equip our nurses with the necessary skills and knowledge to identify and manage these situations.

Education, professional development and clinical placements are essential components of efforts to sustain and build the mental health nursing workforce, and the mental health capacity of the broader nursing and midwifery workforce.

Improving the mental health training and literacy of the future nursing workforce means:

  • ensuring that mental health content in Australian universities being provided in undergraduate nursing curricula meets the needs of contemporary health settings; and
  • improving access to innovative, contemporary, evidence-based mental health nursing content for nurse educators and academics teaching mental health to undergraduate pre-registration nurses.

We know that mental health theory and clinical mental health courses positively influence undergraduate nursing students’ acquisition of mental health competencies.

Classroom teaching and personal contact with someone who has a mental illness seem to be significant factors in generating greater clinical confidence as well as more positive attitudes towards mental health and mental health nursing.
Projects like this will ensure mental health content being taught in nursing programs equips our healthcare workforce to respond to mental health challenges on the frontline.

And this, in turn, will change the lives of people with mental illness.

The Coalition Government is focused on delivering additional frontline services and we are committed to transforming the way mental healthcare is delivered in Australia.

This article was kindly provided by the Office of Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie.

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