JOURNAL ARTICLE

How newly qualified mental health nurses perceive their role

D M Rungapadiachy, A Madill, B Gough
Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 2006, 13 (5): 533-42
16965472
This paper reports a follow-up study of 11 mental health nurses (MHNs) (from an original of 14) who were interviewed about their perception of the role of the MHN while they were still mental health student nurses (MHSNs). These participants perceived the MHN to perform a variety of roles, implementing ward administration, offering physical and psychological interventions, administering drugs and teaching. However, some MHNs were reported to function outside the boundary of professional practice in the form of alleged malpractice, non-involvement or negative approach to care. This study addresses the research question: 'how is the role of the MHN perceived after MHSNs have made the transition to MHN?'. The aim of the study is to examine whether nurses have changed the perception of their role having had 6-month post-registration experience. This information will inform the training of MHNs and identify possible problems with the way in which the function of the mental health nurse is organized. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 MHNs at least 6 months post registration. Transcripts were analysed using a qualitative approach based on grounded theory. Analysis of the interviews with post-registration MHNs produced four main themes: transition, role ambiguity, lack of support and a theory-practice gap. Our conclusion is that there was no drastic change to participants' pre- and post-registration perception in that the role of the MHN is ambiguous by virtue of their engagement in a variety of tasks. However, post-registration participants were more able to articulate rationales for their role vis-à-vis the practical realities of the clinical areas.

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