What's next... for mental health?

Australia needs more mental health nurses and nursing students to ensure that positive mental health services can be delivered.


With one in two Australians estimated to experience difficulties with their mental health at some stage of their lives, skilled mental health nurses are critical in providing effective treatment and support as part of wider mental health services.

As part of the 2020 Budget, the Andrews Labor Government is investing $235 million to create approximately 500 new jobs in mental health, family violence, health and child protection. New accelerated training pathways and internships will also be created for around 875 people, granting more opportunities for aspiring mental health workers to support those in need.

'Being able to provide the right level of care can make a huge difference in someone’s life' says Mental Health Nursing graduate Susan Hua. 'The level of care required for people with mental illness can be complex and challenging, which was why I wanted to specialise in the field.

I was particularly interested in RMIT’s Graduate Diploma of Mental Health Nursing as the course had a strong focus on psychotherapeutic interventions. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to learn in a specialised field. I felt relaxed and supported throughout the course, because our educators were very understanding of our needs.

I’m currently working as a mental health nurse – being able to work with, and support someone on their recovery journey is very rewarding to me'.

'RMIT Nursing is one of the oldest providers of nursing education in Australia and sits at the forefront of nursing education and research,' says RMIT Associate Professor Phil Maude.

Making a difference

The Department of Health foresees that in ten years we could have 40% fewer mental health nurses than we need. The Australia's Future Health Workforce report details that mental health nursing workforce will move to the largest undersupply of all nursing sectors in 2030.

The Master of Mental Health Nursing is a postgraduate program for currently registered nurses who are working or commencing work in a mental health setting and seek to develop skills for promotion and credentialing as a specialist nurse leader. Opportunities exist to develop skills that can be utilised in a variety of clinical settings.

Graduates will gain a recognised specialisation in Mental Health Nursing that offers a generous certificate allowance offered in most Australian enterprise agreements. Graduates can also lead practice and seek promotion into clinical or management leadership roles beyond base-grade level nurse employment.

In the 2018 GOS-L National Report, postgraduate coursework Nursing graduates rated among the highest rates of full-time employment at 96.2%. At the postgraduate research level, Nursing had the second highest rate of full-time employment at 91.8%.

 Susan Hua - RMIT Mental Health Nursing graduate "Being able to work with, and support someone on their recovery journey is very rewarding to me". Susan Hua - RMIT Mental Health Nursing graduate.

The RMIT Master of Mental Health Nursing is taught in flexible mode with strong industry connections and support by our industry partners. We offer a choice of on campus experience of distance education to enhance our students clinical work outcomes in hospitals, community health centres, addictions services, prisons, inpatient care facilities or crisis intervention.

Working as a mental health nurse involves elements of nurse assessment and therapy, medication management, making recommendations to clients and their families, and helping clients learn to manage and understand how to work towards better health outcomes.

Delivering evidence-based outcomes for clients working with clients and carers and seeing progress in clients achieving a better quality of life can be rewarding facets of the career for mental health nurses who are empathetic, well researched and highly skilled.

Mental health nurses need to be effective communicators and have a working knowledge of legislation such as the Mental Health Act, as well as a commitment to strong ethical practice and standards of care delivery. Graduates will work with multi-disciplinary teams and impart caring empathic qualities as part of their interpersonal skills.

According to Nursing Courses Australia, mental health nurses earn about $117,626 per year or $60 per hour on average, which is twice as high the median wage in Australia. As an industry, Mental Health Nursing rates highly for job growth, career opportunities and salary expectations. Add that to the potential for high job satisfaction and a rewarding career, and studying mental health nursing is a promising choice. 

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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer