10 skills and qualities of an outstanding mental health nurse

“The unique nature of mental health nursing means it is an emotionally demanding but rewarding career choice requiring exceptional dedication.” – The Introduction to the Mental Health Nurse’s Handbook
Are you committed to supporting people who are using mental health services? This article is the place to discover more about the essential mental health nursing skills and qualities that are needed to carry out the role. So, dive in and see what makes a great mental health nurse.

The essential mental health nursing skills and qualities checklist:

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What skills and qualities does a mental health nurse need?

1. Showing initiative

As a mental health nurse, you’ll need to work in partnership with others and be able to think on your feet.

2. Being patient, a good listener, and a clear thinker

As well as being visible and available, the qualities of a mental health nurse include taking time to listen to patients and gathering all the facts before making any judgement. You’ll also need to be skilled in being alongside distress, anger, fear, and vulnerability and be honest about what you can and can’t do.

3. Being warm, empathetic, and non-judgmental

Mental health nurse skills include having a flexible communication style where you listen to the patient, showing hope, kindness, and compassion, but without being judgmental. Interpersonal skills in mental health nursing include being kind, honest, and respectful, showing people they matter and helping them overcome the social stigma often linked to mental health.

4. Applying theory and knowledge to safe everyday practice

You’ll need to have a high level of knowledge about issues, treatments, and resources. This includes knowing about the legal context within which you work.

5. Being observant and analytical

Observation skills in mental health nursing include noticing even small things and seeing the person, not just the mental health diagnosis. You’ll also need to corroborate all the information you gather (i.e., not take things at face value).

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6. Clinical skills in mental health nursing

In community services, mental health nursing skills involve safety and risk management; user support; monitoring; medication administration; comprehensive care planning, communication and implementation; counselling and advocacy.

You’ll need a good knowledge of the Mental Health Act 1983 and the latest nursing practices.

You’ll need to be able to administer medication as prescribed, within professional guidelines, and be familiar with the use of emergency medication.

7. Offering sound, practical advice

Offering sound, practical advice is one of the essential qualities of a mental health nurse. Patients will look to you for advice, information, and support around a wide range of mental health issues, including anger management, anxiety, depression, addictive behaviour, OCD, paranoia, self-harm, post-natal depression, and many others.

8. Being committed to nursing and improving the lives of patients

Commitment is an essential quality needed for every role in the nursing profession, including in mental health nursing. Commitment is also one of the 6Cs within the Compassion in Practice strategy developed by the NHS Commissioning Board.

9. Resilience and being able to remain calm under pressure

This role can be stressful and upsetting on occasion. You may find yourself threatened by some patients and in personal danger. You need to be able to deal with these situations calmly and safely.

10. Demonstrates the six NHS values

These values are:

  • Respect and dignity
  • Working together for patients
  • Commitment to quality of care
  • Compassion
  • Improving lives
  • Everyone counts

How to develop your mental health nursing skills

Gaining new skills and honing those that you already have is the key to success in any job. Learning really should be a lifelong venture we enthusiastically embrace. If you want to develop your mental health nursing skills, here are a few ideas that might help you get started and go further:

  • Take on and accept new challenges. Look for ways to ‘stretch’ yourself
  • Know how you learn best. What’s your preferred learning style? Some learn by reading or doing, while others learn by talking to others. If you don’t know your learning style, experiment with different approaches to see which method works best for you
  • Talk to the right people. Find a mentor you respect and trust; someone who can give you time and who will provide you with honest support and feedback
  • Set goals. Write yourself short, medium and long-term milestones that will get you to where you want to be in a realistic period of time
  • Be patient but persist. Remember ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’!

Mental health nurse opportunities with Thornbury

If you’re a mental health nurse looking into agency nursing opportunities, why not contact the team at Thornbury? We’d be more than happy to discuss the roles we have available, along with our exclusive benefits, flexibility and high pay rates. Alternatively, register your interest with us.

Check if you meet the requirements to register as a Thornbury mental health nurse.

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We are looking for exceptional nurses and midwives to join our team. Register with Thornbury to access high rates of pay, paid mileage and support with revalidation.

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