Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Nursing (Research)

Schools and Centres

Nursing and Midwifery

First Supervisor

Dr. Karen Clark-Burg

Second Supervisor

Dr Barbara Braband


Nurses perform a vital role in the mental health (MH) speciality. The mental health nurse (MHN) role is complex with expectations to manage a safe milieu, practice person-centred care, crisis management, and therapeutic skills, teach coping skills, provide emotional support, and set professional boundaries. However, MHN recruitment and retention continues to be a global struggle. Nursing students typically have low interest in choosing the MH speciality. Strategies to reduce stigma and improve attitudes and beliefs about MH nursing and mental illness have been successful among nursing students, globally and in Australia. However, these successful strategies have not extended to an increase in nursing students’ interest to then enter the MH speciality.

The aim of this study was to describe what influenced nursing students to choose the MH specialty.

This study utilises qualitative descriptive methodology with semi-structured interviews with seven undergraduate and postgraduate nursing students enrolled in elective MH units. Findings were determined with content and thematic analysis

. Three themes emerged related to choosing MH: an intrapersonal reconciliation of values and career, observation and engagement in the MH system, and a desire to serve MH patients and to be an MH advocate and activist. Nursing students’ views included views of the MH system and personal views about mental illness and how those views have changed over time

Participants were self-reflective, challenged their views, and looked for a career that aligned with those views. Following experiences working with people with mental illness, participants felt connected to MH nursing. They wanted to advocate for people with mental illness following perceived injustices in the MH system. These results inform nursing program recruiters about second-career nursing students’ interest in MH. Nursing programs can implement reflective curriculum to foster student internal dialogues about MH. Findings further indicate clinical experience is imperative for interest in MH.

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Nursing Commons