Your complete mental health nurse career progression guide

Welcome to your complete guide to career progression opportunities in mental health nursing. According to the Royal College of Nursing: “Being a mental health nurse is a great role with an abundance of future opportunities: teaching, management, research and further clinical specialism are all possible.”

If you are researching the paths available to you or ways to develop your career in mental health nursing, our guide covers different areas for you to explore.

Working in different settings

In your mental health nursing career, you have the opportunity to work in many different settings and even focus in on one environment as you move forward in your career. There are numerous places to look into, including:

  • Secure hospitals
  • Specialist units
  • Prisons
  • Care homes
  • Schools
  • Medical centres
  • Private homes
  • Support groups working out of drop-in centres and health centres

Working across different settings can help you to discover the one that fits your interests and passions the most. Each setting that you work in will also present you with opportunities to learn and grow. Experiencing different environments means you can collaborate and work alongside many different healthcare professionals too, giving you the opportunity to share and exchange valuable knowledge.

Working with different patient groups

As a mental health nurse, you can also work with certain patient groups. These can include:

  • Adults
  • Older adults
  • Children and adolescents
  • People struggling with substance abuse and addiction
  • People in the criminal justice system

If you are interested in focusing on one particular patient group, this will give you the opportunity to develop specialist knowledge and expertise in that area. Working solely with one set of patients also means you can hone in on the specific challenges and experiences faced by that group, allowing you to gain a comprehensive understanding of them and their needs, so that you can provide treatment that is truly tailored to them.

Specialising in certain mental health conditions

In your mental health nursing career, you can also look to focus on treating certain mental health conditions. These can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

If you find that you have an interest in supporting patients with particular mental health challenges, you can choose to focus in on certain conditions by working within teams and settings that specialise in them. That way, you can strengthen your skills and expertise in the area, and specialise in treating certain conditions you are passionate about throughout your career.

Working as an agency nurse

Another career progression opportunity is to work as an agency nurse. If you’re looking to gain experience and strengthen your skillset, it allows you to work across various settings with many different patients and healthcare professionals within a relatively short period of time. It can help you to determine an area or environment you’d be interested in focusing on, while also helping you to expand your professional network for the future.

Agency nursing also comes with flexibility, which can be ideal for nurses looking for greater control over when and where they work during their careers. It also comes with financial rewards, as the rates of pay are often higher.

If you’re interested in finding out more about agency nursing, read all about the rewards and benefits of doing so with Thornbury Nursing.

Advance into a specialist role

There are plenty of opportunities to progress into specialist roles as a mental health nurse. Many of these require experience and additional qualifications, which we have provided details of below.

Approved mental health practitioner (AMHP)

To train as an AMHP, you must have at least two years of post-qualification experience. Universities mainly offer training at postgraduate level on courses developed in partnership with a local authority and include a practice placement.

For these roles, you’ll need the financial support of your local authority and their permission to train. To practice as an AMHP (in England), you’ll also need a warrant granted by the sponsoring local authority, which is awarded once you have passed an approved programme.

Advanced clinician (Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)/Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ANP) (Level 7))

If you’re looking to progress into these types of roles during your mental health nursing career, you’ll need a minimum of 5 years’ post-registration experience, a postgraduate qualification, and a prescribing qualification to administer medications and psychotherapies. These positions are two steps above the initial qualification level and immediately below the nurse consultant level.

To help you achieve an advanced practitioner level in mental health nursing, Health Education England has established the Advanced Practice Mental Health Curriculum and Capabilities Framework. It sets out ‘the capabilities expected of mental health practitioners working at advanced level across the four practice pillars and describes the educational and support requirements for an educational pathway.’

Nurse consultant

Nurse consultants in mental health are highly experienced nurses with a clinical background who have chosen to specialise in a particular area of practice. They are senior nurse leaders who operate at a strategic level. Learning, leadership and research and development form the four pillars of this role. Working at this advanced practitioner level includes providing:

  • Expert clinical practice
  • Consultancy with nurses and other healthcare professionals
  • Professional leadership and development of a team of nurses

Making the move into management

You can also progress your mental health nurse career by making the move into a managerial role. There are many different management routes open to you, including the following roles:

  • Ward manager
  • Clinical services manager
  • Commissioning case manager
  • Unit/team manager
  • Clinical lead

Mental health nursing opportunities with Thornbury Nursing

At Thornbury Nursing, our mental health nurses (RMNs) work on temporary, last-minute placements across England and Wales.

Take a look at our industry-leading pay rates for registered and experienced nurses, and see if you meet our mental health nurse requirements. If you do, you’re ready to register with us today.

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