Role Of The Community Mental Health Nurse – Community-based mental health nurses play a vital role in Australia’s health care system. With 1 in 5 people experiencing a mental illness each year, the demand for mental health support continues to rise. Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Australians using mental health and crisis services has increased. To meet this demand, it is essential that communities across Australia have access to adequate and appropriate mental health care in hospitals and clinics and through other healthcare providers.
Various socioeconomic factors, such as access to services, living conditions and employment status, can affect someone’s mental health. This impact is not limited to the individual but extends to their families and caregivers. As such, the role of a mental health nurse is to provide all affected individuals with the support they need.
Role Of The Community Mental Health Nurse
Interested in pursuing a career as a mental health nurse in Australia? In this article, we’ll look at the basics of community mental health nursing, the key duties and responsibilities of the role, and the education and training needed to excel in the field.
Roles Of The Mental Health Team:
The role of a community mental health nurse is to provide vital mental health care and support to people in the local community, primarily those in a community setting (where people live and work), rather than in hospital settings. Mental health nurses often spend a lot of time early in their careers working in acute settings such as emergency departments and inpatient units.
“Mental health nurses are the only health professionals who spend extended periods of time with people in extreme states of distress and distress over 24-hour periods. This uniquely positions mental health nurses to empathetically communicate with people when they are most vulnerable and recognizing and responding to decline,” says Richard Lakeman, professor of Mental Health at SCU.
According to the 2021 census, more than eight million Australians reported being diagnosed with a long-term health condition, with 2.2 million reporting a mental health condition that included depression or anxiety. Mental health nurses work primarily with people who have the most complex psychosocial needs, sometimes called the ‘missing middle’ in the step care model of mental health in primary care. Such people may experience or be at risk of homelessness, risk of imprisonment or hospitalization and existing services provided in primary care are often insufficient or ineffective.
These nurses provide mental health services not only to the affected individuals but also to their families and communities. They work closely with other health care professionals as needed and community organizations to ensure patients receive the best possible care.
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Working as a community mental health nurse can be multifaceted and complex. Challenges may include dealing with patients who may have a history of being poorly served by other services. Working in rural and remote communities can also present unique challenges due to limited resources and access issues. In the face of these challenges, the rewards of this role are significant. Positively impacting the lives of others, especially those who are vulnerable, can be deeply fulfilling.
To become a mental health nurse working within the community, nurses must maintain ongoing training and professional development to stay abreast of the latest research, treatments, and approaches. They should also continue to gain first-hand experiences to increase their confidence and abilities in complex situations.
Roles and responsibilities of mental health nurses can vary greatly. Here is a snapshot of some of their tasks.
As a mental health nurse working in the community, an essential part of your role will be to ensure the consistency of the support given to your patients. This can be compared to a form of case management.
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“Case management has been well developed and researched as the primary model of service delivery in community health services,” says Lakeman. “At their best, clinical case managers are the primary providers of whatever treatment is needed. They help solve problems and coordinate services for an individual to ensure continuity of services and address system rigidity, fragmentation of services, misuse of facilities and inaccessibility to overcome.
A mental health nurse is a specialist who has undertaken postgraduate study and generally received at least two years of supervised practice. They get referrals from psychiatrists and family doctors. They often adapt psychotherapy to work with people with the most complex needs and will liaise with others in the health and welfare system. They can also be the liaison between a patient and their healthcare provider, working to continually assess their situation and develop a care plan to support their mental health.
Working as the human link between the service user (or patient) and the service system becomes an integral part of providing support as a mental health nurse.
Mental health nurses have the qualifications, skills and experience to provide high quality care in all settings. They promote good physical and mental well-being and act as liaisons between patients and their healthcare providers.
Mental Health Nurses
Barriers to accessing mental health services may include not being able to physically access local services, being constrained by financial difficulties or having a limited understanding of mental health. Because navigating the health system can be another challenge in itself, mental health professionals liaise with other specialists and support services and help manage other complications that may arise.
“Mental health nurses understand how the system works and are able to simplify and streamline processes,” says Lakeman. “They will often be the primary provider of specialist services for an individual for extensive periods of time in ‘outreach’ rather than ‘clinic-based’ capacities. They can and do, when necessary, refer to and liaise with other service providers.
Mental health services in rural and remote areas face more significant challenges compared to large cities across Australia. The suicide rate in these areas is roughly 40-50 percent higher, and access to mental health care can be limited.
People living in these areas are also more likely to struggle with isolation, loneliness, less employment and drug and alcohol abuse. Further challenges can be caused by having fewer transport options, difficulty with mobility – especially for the elderly – and experiencing unfavorable weather, namely for those who work in industries dependent on agriculture, mining, tourism, fishing or forestry.
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Mental health nurses work in a variety of settings, including metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas. They can also be found in hospitals, doctors’ clinics, community centers and aged care facilities, making them a vital resource for people and communities nationwide.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the other settings where you can work as a mental health nurse.
Mental health nurses play an essential role in providing care to patients with mental health conditions in hospital settings. Here you can work in psychiatric wards, emergency departments or outpatient clinics, providing support in various potentially complex cases.
When it comes to identifying and treating patients who may be experiencing a variety of mental health conditions—from anxiety and depression to more serious conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia—the expertise and advanced training that mental health nurses have in these situations bring them invaluable. .
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Mental health nurses work in hospital settings such as psychiatric wards, emergency departments and outpatient clinics. They provide care to patients with a variety of mental health conditions and may work with multidisciplinary teams to manage complex cases.
When youare working in a correctional facility as a mental health nurse, you will be responsible for supporting inmates by assessing and diagnosing mental health conditions, developing treatment plans and providing ongoing care.
Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) require ongoing care, where patients must receive medication, individual counseling and group therapy. It will fall within your task to manage these responsibilities.
In addition to providing care to inmates, mental health nurses in correctional facilities also provide support to staff and employees of correctional facilities. This may include providing education and training on mental health issues, crisis management and de-escalation techniques.
Psychiatric Nursing Careers
As the population ages, the need for mental health care among the elderly becomes increasingly important. As a mental health nurse in an aged care facility, you will play a crucial role in providing care and support to older people who may be experiencing dementia, depression and anxiety.
You will work to develop personalized care plans to address the unique needs of each of your patients. You will also provide guidance and support to patients and their families, collaborating with other healthcare professionals to ensure the right care is delivered. Mental health nurses may provide care to older individuals in residential aged care facilities or in the community to address mental health needs specific to the older population.
Mental health nurses working in school settings play a vital role in supporting the mental health needs of their students. By working in a school, you will have the opportunity to build trusting relationships with staff, students and their families in the process of caring for the various cohorts.
Working closely with the teachers and staff, you will be tasked with identifying and addressing any student mental health issues
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