What is a mental health nurse?

As a registered mental health nurse (RMN), you provide support and medical care to adults, young people and children facing a range of mental health conditions. These conditions can leave people feeling stigmatised and discriminated against. Through your work, you will empower them and enable them to lead fulfilling lives. 

Within this blog, we look in detail at the role and responsibilities of a mental health nurse, the different settings you can work within and the skills and qualities that make a great RMN. We also provide salary information along with details of Thornbury Nursing pay rates and the mental health nursing placements that we currently have available.  

What does a mental health nurse do?

Mental health nurses are responsible for providing mental health treatment and care to adults, young people, and children in both hospital and community settings.  

The role of a mental health nurse includes: 

  • Assessing patients and discussing their mental health conditions with them 
  • Providing treatment and ensuring medication is administered correctly 
  • Working to understand the source of a patient’s illness 
  • Conducting one-on-one sessions 
  • Preparing and maintaining patient records 
  • Conducting risk assessments 
  • Updating family members on patient progress 
  • Ensuring all legal requirements are complied with 

As an RMN, you are often required to think on your feet, as patients can sometimes be unpredictable. This means that it’s important to be adaptable and able to work under pressure. 

Where do mental health nurses work?

RMNs work in a variety of settings. These include: 

  • Hospitals 
  • Care homes 
  • Local health centres 
  • Client’s homes 
  • GP practices 
  • Prisons 

When working as an RMN in a hospital, you’ll typically be based in either a psychiatric unit, a specialist ward or an outpatient department. And your daily activities are likely to be focused on building relationships with your clients, their families and carers. Physical care will be part of the work, but it’s certainly not the only aspect of the job. 

If you take on a community mental health nurse role, you’ll care for people outside of this hospital setting. Your responsibilities will depend on the environment in which you work, but will likely include reviewing, treating, and monitoring patients, while providing advice, information and support to patients and where necessary, their families or carers too. 

RMNs who choose to work in agency roles can gain experience quickly in a variety of settings. This can be particularly beneficial for those looking to grow and develop, as well as those wanting to broaden their skill set.    

Skills and qualities of a great mental health nurse

Being a mental health nurse is a vocation full of challenges and great rewards. Along with having the right nursing qualifications, there are skills and qualities that are important to have as a mental health nurse.  

Personality traits and skills that come in handy include: 

  • Interpersonal communication 
  • Initiative 
  • Good listener 
  • Able to offer advice 
  • Problem-solving

For RMNs who choose to work with an agency, it’s also important to be flexible and adaptable. As an agency mental health nurse, you’ll often be working in new environments, with new teams and to new schedules, so it’s important to be able to embrace the variety that this type of role offers.

Why become a mental health nurse?

There are various reasons why people choose to specialise in mental health nursing. These often include the following: 

  • It’s a rewarding career. You can help some of the most vulnerable in society. 
  • You get to make a real difference. Though this profession can be challenging, mental health nurses are more likely to feel a sense of fulfilment as their everyday work is making a difference. 
  • There are lots of work opportunities. Mental health nurses are in very high demand, meaning that a job after qualifying is almost guaranteed. There is also the option to work as part of an agency such as Thornbury Nursing, which provides part-time and flexible work opportunities with high pay rates.

Find more information about working with Thornbury Nursing here.

How do I become a registered mental health nurse (RMN)?

If you are looking to become a mental health nurse, there are a few different paths available:   

  • The most common way to become a mental health nurse is by completing a university degree approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) 
  • Alternatively, you can carry out a degree apprenticeship supported by your employer 
  • If you are already a general nurse, you can also specialise in mental health nursing through a two-year conversion course 

How much do mental health nurses get paid in the UK?

In the NHS, a mental health nurse’s salary is determined by a banded pay scale called Agenda for Change. The Agenda for Change pay rates for 2023/24 are: 

Starting hourly rate 

Band 5
Newly qualified RMNs 

Band 6
More experienced RMNs

Band 7
RMNs in a management position or working at a more senior level 

Band 8
RMNs at consulting level 





Starting hourly rate 

Band 5
Newly qualified RMNs 

Band 6
More experienced RMNs

Band 7
RMNs in a management position or working at a more senior level 

Band 8
RMNs at consulting level 





Agency pay rates for RMNs tend to be significantly higher. For example, RMNs can earn up to £54.50/hour with Thornbury Nursing (plus more on Bank Holidays). This is in recognition of the high level of skill, experience, commitment and flexibility it takes to be an agency nurse.  

If you would like to work as a registered mental health nurse with Thornbury and take advantage of our industry-leading pay rates and benefits package, please register here

Register with Thornbury

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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