Find a Mental Health Nurse
Find Credentialed Mental Health Nurses throughout Australia by searching our Credentialed Mental Health Nurse Directory (updated 1 May 2013).
Note: To search by state, open the PDF document, hit CTRL + F on your keyboard, and type in the state name in full (eg New South Wales, Queensland etc).
Meet some Credentialed Mental Health Nurses
There are over 1100 Credentialed Mental Health Nurses working across Australia. They work collaboratively with a range of other health professionals in diverse settings such as community health, consultation-liaison (in emergency departments and maternity services), private practice, primary health care, hospitals, forensic services and universities.
Read the extraordinary stories of some of these nurses.
Meet Adam: 1000th Credentialed Mental Health Nurse
Being the 1000th Credentialed Mental Health Nurse is an honour. It is a fantastic feeling to be recognised by the ACMHN as a professional in this field.
I started my nursing career as a result ofan accident in 1994. I was a trained chef and very unhappy with my employment – I knew I needed a change. Growing up, I was always interested in medicine and wanted to become a doctor – but my parents told me I needed ‘a trade’, something I could fall back on. Being 17 years of age, I believed they knew what they were talking about!
After an unpleasant accident, which I now look back on as fortunate, I changed my direction in life. While I was in hospital with full thickness burns to my hand that required skin grafting, I became acutely aware of the way nurses cared for patients– not only for their physical needs. Beinga first time inpatient, the nurses were reassuring and made me feel less anxious. I found I actually enjoyed the hour long daily activity of dressing my hand prior to the skin graft; I noticed that the nurses would also enjoy this time as it took them away from the hustle and bustle of the ward. It was here that I realised nursing provided an opportunity to be able to look after people in a holistic way, which seemed amuch more satisfying profession than a doctor spending 15 minutes with someone and seeing them when an appointmentwas available.
I applied for the Enrolled Nurse program at Central Coast Health and was successful. I completed a year’s program and gained employment on the Surgical ward at Gosford Hospital where I worked full time for 3 years whilst also studying a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Technology, Sydney. I graduated in 2000, completed a one year beginning practitioner program within the same health service and became very interested in emergency nursing. I worked in the ED for 5 years and completed a Graduate Certificate through the College of Nursing. During this time there was a big push to better serve people who presented at EDs with mental health issues.
I started work at Mandala Clinic in Gosford in 2005. This was a complete change from emergency nursing. However, my ED experience enabled me to quickly identify physical health problems amongst the clients, something I still find extremely valuable today. I also became aware of the huge role substance use plays in physical and mental wellbeing (or lack thereof). What intrigued me was the cycle whereby clients were admitted, stopped using substances, became well and were discharged…only to be readmitted again as they resumed their substance use. Although drug and alcohol services were available, follow up after discharge was difficult for many reasons.So I started a project within the mental health unit where I assessed client’s substance use and also involved a sexual heath component where screening for STI’s was made readily available. This enabled consumers to be referred for counselling and follow-up by drug and alcohol services. I ran a weekly group that alternated between sexual health and substance use education for consumers. I also ran a number of education sessions for staff, for example, on how to look at the objective and subjective components of alcohol withdrawal scales and medicate sufficiently while assisting medical officers feel confident in charting an appropriate diazepam regime. I also commenced a Masters in Health Science specialising in drug and alcohol, which I have recently completed.
I left Mandala Clinic in May 2010 to gain some experience in an opiate treatment programme and whilst I enjoyed my learning experience and worked with some fabulous clinicians and doctors, the enthusiasm I had was quickly depleted by management and some other clinicians that did not want to see the service grow.When a position came up with the Central Coast Division of General Practice for a Mental Health Co-morbidity Shared Care Coordinator, I was the successful applicant. This project encompasses everything about mental health, substance use and physical wellbeing that I feel passionate about. I have been able to work extremely closely with clients and my contact with them is ongoing until they no longer need myservice.
Meet Wendy: 700th Credentialed Mental Health Nurse
I have been a practicing Psychiatric nurse for over 20 years and consider myself to be one of the “old school” nurses who trained within the hospital system both as a Division 1 and Division 3 nurse, working at several of the old “institutions” and in many of the more modern units built within the general hospital system following the era of deinstitutionalization.
Over this time, I have seen many changes in nursing practice, some good and some not so great. I have until recently, mainly worked within the public mental health system and at times have become disillusioned with the opportunities made available to nurses who want to practice as “nurses”. I have always loved day to day contact with clients whether I have worked in acute psychiatry, community or in my specialty area of drug and alcohol and have always found that there was nowhere to go, career wise, until recently.
I have recently accepted a position working within the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program with Greater Eastern Primary Health in Melbourne’s outer east, for which I was required to go through the credentialing process. During this process I was asked to discuss and justify my nursing practice and surprisingly found that there is quite a lot to be proud of in being a nurse who likes to “nurse” and achieve goals with their clients. For the first time in a long time, I felt that there was somewhere to move forward and with the added incentive to keep improving my knowledge base and nursing practice and to be acknowledged for this amongst my peers. There are a lot of great psychiatric nurses in the system who do not feel they are being acknowledged for the work they do and as a result don’t see the point in continuing to improve their competencies; the credentialing process is an exciting step towards nurses actually acknowledging each other and feeling that they are in a cohesive profession.
The prominence of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses and the introduction of credentialing can only be a positive influence for the profession; it opens up increasingly attractive career options and the requirement to continue to improve one’s knowledge results in increasing nurses confidence in their abilities to do their job well. I am looking forward to the new challenges that I am setting for myself and looking forward to promoting the credentialing process amongst my peers, illuminating the opportunities it opens up and as a result the improvement in clinical practice that it will encourage.
Meet Alison: 500th Credentialed Mental Health Nurse
I trained for two years as a State enrolled nurse in 1976 in Sheffield, England. Once I had qualified I moved to the brand new Psychiatric unit at Rotherham General Hospital specialising in Acute mental health nursing. Since that time I have nursed in Mental Health Rehab, Aged Care and Community in Sheffield, Rotherham and Merseyside, and as a Deputy officer in charge of Council run Residential Homes and in the village marina restaurant in Cork, Ireland where I lived for a few years with my then husband and two daughters! Back in the UK I began a conversion course with the Sheffield University, followed by an Advanced Diploma in Acute Mental Health Nursing.I came to Australia at the end of December 2003 after deciding one day in my kitchen that I wanted more in my life. It took a year to plan the move, and we even brought our dog!
I worked briefly at St Vincent’s Public Hospital, Melbourne but was disenchanted with the standard of care offered to patients within the system and it was apparent the health care system was somewhat lagging behind that of the UK. I have always had concerns regarding the isolation of patients in acute psychotic phase, being alone with their terrifying voices at a time when they need love and compassion. Aggression is driven by fear, mistrust and confusion.
I then moved to The Footbridge Hospital, St Vincent’s Psycho-social rehab unit in North Fitzroy. Working as case manager, I devised care plans for my clients and focussed particularly on Nutrition as medicine and initiated a trial using Fish oils. One client, a 24 year old man with Autism and ‘schizophrenia’ responded so well to the trial that the Psychiatrist noted his increased cognition and reduction in aggressive outbursts. My other client went on to complete his law degree. The trial was discontinued due to certain hospital protocol (I have a mistrust of the influence of Pharmaceutical companies) and in frustration I resigned and began work in the Private sector where I still work.
As a practitioner I continue to promote healthy nutrition, and as a deeply spiritual person apply Jungian theories on illness and recovery. Like Carl Jung I believe that mental health problems (and some physical illnesses) are a result of and are driven by fear, frustration, grief and guilt (self loathing). Recovery, therefore, is by means of acceptance, change and forgiveness. As preceptor to graduate nurses I encourage them to ‘think outside the box’, discourage the use of paternalistic terminology such as ‘compliance’ (with medication for example) and not focus too much on diagnosis. When caring for people’s emotions, no two people can ever be the same.
As for my future, I am soon to embark upon training as facilitator with the Hearing Voices Network and the application of Mindfulness. As a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse I feel somewhat liberated in my practice, and can truly advocate for the client using sound evidence based theories, though they may be alternative, the client has the right to them.
Meet Sandy: 300th Credentialed Mental Health Nurse
Nursing was never where I was heading. For as long as I can remember, I was going to be a teacher – even after I had 10 children (Nana was going to look after them while I was at school). Thankfully for me, teaching didn’t happen. In my last year at high school we visited the local psychiatric hospital and so opened up other employment options. Within 8 weeks of doing exams I was working!
I have been lucky, had some wonderful teachers, wonderful mentors, had my eyes opened, lots of fun and experiences. Most of all I have met very special people along my way who have shared so much and allowed me to be part of their lives; shown the struggles people can experience but most of all the positives we can all strive for.
I have not always done things the most ‘correct’ way, but will persist with things I think important, will let others know what I think, some would even say “be a pain”, but that is me. I remember the 6th year medical student who had become very unwell and withdrawn. He did, however, regularly attend the day centre I was involved in – he wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t engage in activities but was there, sitting on the edges. Every day I would greet him and when after 6 months I got a response it was awesome; he became part of the group as an active member. Persistence, politeness and acceptance pays off.
I am basically a person who likes to see the bright side to people and things, who enjoys most days and loves to be with others and laugh. Much of my approach at work, home and socially is to be positive, see the good in others and encourage others to do likewise, to accept what is your lot in life, enjoy it and build on it. Throughout my working life I have worked in both hospital and community settings, have been involved in skills training programs and worked with young people in a behavioural modification program. I have learnt so much from others, learnt not to always “assume” and hopefully be able to offer something back.
In more recent years I have been in a rural community mental health setting, a great moved that showed how smaller communities are different to the suburbs. Everyone is known somehow or other, word gets around easily, there is less anonymity. Neighbours know your business and who visits you (especially it if is in a government plated car). To hopefully break down some of the barriers is important. People are just people, we all need to live together, be considerate of others and community standards. We need to accept and respect others and we need to be willing to seek and accept supports available to us and use them as stepping stones to get through difficult times and hopefully move in the direction we want.
November 2006 saw some big challenges for me. I had been in the same system since leaving school – only 30 years or so – after being in the public community health team for 16 years I made the decision to change. As part of that change I said my goodbyes, thankyous and received much positive feedback from the team I had been part of. One such goodbye saw me cheekily offering my services to the local GP service – unfortunately, at that time, no position was available. I even wrote to them with contact details if things were to change. Some 5 ½ months later that’s exactly what happened and in August 2007 I started with Kapunda Medical Practice for 2 days per week; by November I was up to 4 days. The move has been great; I have become a member of the team at the practice and referrals and ongoing follow-up continue at quite a pace. The opportunity to advance mental health with the doctors, practice nurses, medical students and administrative staff has been great.
To become credentialed, to be further acknowledged as a mental health nurse who is part of the team able to offer services to clients is most satisfying. To have people asking to be referred to me, to have the GPs valuing the services I offer is appreciated. I continue to have regular contact with the staff I have worked with in the past, I continue to build connections with the public mental health service and value the opportunities to continue to develop skills and knowledge, seek support and friendship. It is great to see funding being made available to other avenues to the benefit of our clients, to assist with seeking services and supports that may just make a difference. It would be good if these avenues continue to grow especially in the areas of support within the community in which people live. It may have been a bit of work getting my credentialing application in order, but keeping diaries for the last few years certainly helped. It was also good for me to see what I have been doing with my time – I know life is busy but sometimes we lose track of just what we have done. I hope I have the opportunity to continue to be of some use and maybe make a little bit of a difference.
Meet Ah-Nya: 200th Credentialed Mental Health Nurse
My earliest memory of a nurse is a sweet one – I won a lolly award from the primary school dental nurse! As a child the wonders of the world fascinated me…I dreamt of one day travelling the world so deciding on a career combining work with travel was relatively easy.
But I soon found out that the road to any quest is never without a cord of pain – leaving my sheltered life in tropical Malaysia I arrived in London in the cold winter of 1976. The place I now called “home” was the old “sick bay” that was sandwiched between two psychiatric wards at German Hospital in Dalston. Always a strong believer in quality improvement, I acted to improve my situation – I moved to The Runwell Psychiatric Hospital that was nestled in some three hundred acres of green pasture in Essex, and it was here that my nursing career started.
So, how did I come to be in the Continuing Care Team in Mid West Area Mental Health Service? Some twenty years ago I visited Australia and fell in love with it. Upon returning to Malaysia, I convinced my husband Min that Melbourne was the place to be. Not only did I manage to get Min and our family to Melbourne two years later, I also “converted” him into a mental health nurse!
Thirty-two years after first starting out as a mental health nurse, and having worked as manager and clinician across many services and settings, I am proud to be the 200th Credentialed Mental Health Nurse.
I am really excited about the future of mental health nursing and feel that there are so many more opportunities for nurses now in comparison to yesteryears. The expansion of roles and the extension of practice are a couple of areas that contemporary nurses can apply themselves. I have always found mental health nursing to be an exciting and rewarding profession. I feel we are privileged to hear the inside stories of people’s lives and have the knowledge and skills to support, educate and nurture people through difficult times and illnesses, as well as promoting their wellbeing.
I believe the credentialing process emphasises the maintenance of high standards of professional development and supervision and I would encourage all nurses to seek credentialing. For me, the credentialing process is a way of ensuring nursing is respected as a progressive profession that self regulates to maintain standards, and it can only further enhance the professional stance of mental health nursing.
As for my dream of travelling the world, I’m off to climb the Great Wall for the third time next month!
Meet Brent: 100th Credentialed Mental Health Nurse
After working in acute adult inpatient psychiatric units and community rehabilitation for some time and completing postgraduate studies in mental health nursing, I was eager to move to community nursing when offered a position on the Homeless Outreach Psychiatric Service at The Alfred.
This was perhaps the beginning of my affiliation with working with marginalised members of the community and a steep learning curve in the development of my mental health nursing skills. I began expanding the scope of my practice to include triage and secondary consultation while beginning my foray into the world of conference presenting and publication and embarking on higher degree study at the University of Melbourne.
I spent a short time working in a sexual health outreach service in male sex venues then moved to the Victorian Dual Disability Service at St Vincent’s Hospital where I worked as a Senior Clinician undertaking complex assessments of people with intellectual disabilities and mental disorder and began lecturing and tutoring at universities. It was around this time that the College began advertising the Credentialing for Practice Program. I saw Credentialing as an excellent way of having my education, skills, work experience and professional development recognised by my mental health nursing peers. I recently returned to The Alfred as a Clinical Nurse Educator where the focus of my practice has changed to the recruitment and retention of new graduate nurses, supporting and evaluating postgraduate students and facilitating an educational program for community mental health services.
The process of credentialing allowed me to reflect upon my professional experiences and to truly understand why I continue to work as a mental health nurse. While Credentialing requires voluntary and intrinsic motivation, it is itself a modality to ensuring that I remain an educationally prepared and competently developed mental health professional.
Meet Carol: First Credentialed MHN in the Illawarra
I began my Psychiatric Nurse training in 1967 at North Ryde and since then I have been employed in community, inpatient, patient flow, education, Project Officer and Nurse Unit Manager positions.
Like many others I have experienced and been part of the political, economic and knowledge changes that have influenced the care and treatment we deliver to our clients, their families and carers. I have also seen the emergence of mental health nurses as a professional group and an acknowledged speciality field of nursing.
I had heard about credentialing and while attending an ANZCMHN International Conference in New Zealand many years ago registered to attend a Jon Chesterson workshop to understand more about the process. During the workshop I was excited at the prospect that mental health nurses now had the opportunity, similar to other disciplines, to formally demonstrate and capture the experience and skills they had developed as mental health professionals. The Tasmanian experience had provided a beacon for fellow travellers.
I became the first credentialed nurse in the Illawarra Region and at the same time aware that my illegible diary entries had made a simple task of completing the application form – rather than a frustrating memory challenge and time consuming paper chase. Three years later my reapplication was completed almost angst free!
I am the secretary of the Illawarra Sub-branch of the ACMHN and have been appointed as the coordinator of The Specialist Mental Health Service for Older People (SMHSOP). This new service has been established within the SESIAHS to provide clients over 65 years of age with mental health disorders access to a comprehensive range of services that address their needs. The service in the Illawarra includes community sites at Coniston and Nowra and a soon to be completed 14 bed inpatient unit within The Wollongong Hospital. As we recruit for nurses to join our expanding service I am proud to say that in our position description under ‘Desirable Criteria’ are the words “Credentialed Mental Health Nurse”.