Otago Polytechnic

New Zealand can do better at equipping and supporting graduate nurses for mental health nursing practice.

Mental health nursing has historically struggled to attract and retain qualified staff. What more can be done to strengthen recruitment, to prepare graduate nurses to work in mental health, and to support them in practice so that they thrive and develop professionally? Senior Lecturer Deborah Cracknell has been researching these issues.

Deborah interviewed seven new graduate nurses who were working in mental health. Most participants felt strongly that they had not been adequately prepared for post registration nursing practice in mental health. Those who did not have a placement in a mental health setting in their final year of study especially felt that they were thrown in at the deep end. Deborah's study also identified that they would all have benefited from increased mental health theory and clinical preparation in relevant skills during their degree studies.

Deborah also identified that involving mental health service users in nursing education, and introducing mental health earlier, could help encourage students to work in mental health upon graduation. To address the high attrition rate, it would be helpful to address staff shortages, demanding workloads and negative attitudes towards mental health nursing. In all Deborah made 24 recommendations for consideration by institutions offering nursing education, by employers of mental health nurses, and by the government. 

HEALTH & WELLBEING

April 2020