Why is mental health nursing often challenging to define?
As nurses in different fields, we need to know what core education will enable us to meet the collective mental and physical health, social and spiritual needs of those in our care
We are mental health nurses. We are not psychiatric nurses, but sometimes our roles align more with the pathological understanding of mental illness.
Often required to meet service users’ complex physical needs
We are not psychology nurses, yet we may align more with the psychological interpretation of mental health.
We are not general nurses, although we often are required to meet the more complex physical health needs of those in our care.
With its socio-historical influence from various healthcare professions, contemporary mental health nursing is often challenging to define.
‘Mental health is everyone’s business, no matter your field of practice or place of work’
We also lack a universally agreed evidence base, so our practice frequently demands high autonomy and complexity. This is often seen as our greatest weakness. Still, it can also be our greatest strength, allowing us to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing needs of our diverse populations.
Mental health nursing lacks universally agreed evidence base
The physical health outcomes of people with serious mental illness remain woeful. Consequently, the trajectory of ‘parity of esteem’ remains heavily towards one side of the coin, physical health in mental healthcare. Yet, mental health in physical health requires equal attention, a more holistic approach from all fields of nursing.
The term ‘generic’ is now riddled with negative connotations in nursing education and practice.
Nursing must continuously evolve to meet needs of diverse populations
However, we must agree on what is ‘core’ to our collective profession. Through this process, both sides of the parity of esteem coin must be equated.
Nursing must continuously evolve and adapt to the ever-changing needs of our diverse populations. Mental health is everyone’s business, no matter your field of practice or place of work.
Equally, you cannot have mental health without physical health. Nor can health be removed from the social and spiritual contexts in which people live.
Stephen Jones, professional lead for mental health, Royal College of Nursing
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