Mental health issues within the general health care system: the challenge for nursing education in Australia

Brenda Happell, Chris Platania-Phung
Nurse Education Today 2005, 25 (6): 465-71
The mental health content of undergraduate nursing programs has consistently been identified as inadequate in preparing graduate nurses with the knowledge and skills for, and interest in, a career in mental health nursing. Since the introduction of generic nursing education, undergraduate programs have become primarily focused on the development of generalist skills, with specialisation occurring at postgraduate level. The integration of mental health services within the broader health care system in Australia has led to a significant increase in the prevalence of mental health problems within the general health care setting. The relevant literature suggests that nurses are not well prepared to meet the mental health care needs of this population. The aim of this paper is to briefly outline the incidence of mental health problems within the general health care system, the implications for nursing, and the potential role which nursing could play in recognising, and providing appropriate care for the treatment of mental health problems. The implications for nursing education, and the need for mental health nursing skills to be considered essential for all nurses will be discussed.

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