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Mental health nursing is the practice of promoting mental health as well as caring for people who have mental illness, potentiating their independence and restoring their dignity. In order to fulfill this arduous occupation, a mental health nurse must possess a sound knowledge base and the requisite skills for good nursing practice.


Personal Skills

Self-awareness: It is a key component of psychiatric nursing experience. It is an answer to the question, ”who am I”? The nurse must be able to examine personal feelings, actions and reactions as a provider of care. A firm understanding and acceptance by the nurse allows acknowledging a patient’s differences and uniqueness.

Adaptability: A mental health nurse needs to be adaptable to different settings and cultures. Working within residential settings, for example, may demand attitudes and roles which are different from working in a community, as in a residential setting the nurse may have an authoritative or a supervisory role which she necessarily does not have in a community.

A mental health nurse also needs to cope with a variety of social and cultural settings. Social settings involve the class and status of the individuals while cultural settings involve race, ethnicity and gender. Therefore, she may need to be familiar with the issues that arise in cross-cultural mental health nursing.

Care Values and Attitudes

These include:

  •  Self-awareness and self-esteem
  • Respecting the person’s rights
  • Listening
  • Responding with care and respect
  • Supporting with trust and confidence
  • Reassuring with explanation and honesty
  • Physically nursing the helpless with compassion
  • Carrying out procedures skillfully
  • Working within personal and ethical boundaries.

Counseling Skills

These include:

  • Unconditional positive regard/non-judgmental approach
  • Empathy
  • Warmth and genuineness
  • Confidentiality
  • Non-verbal sensitivity, non-verbal attending, non-verbal responding
  • Other interpersonal skills required are paraphrasing, reflecting, clarifying and summarizing

Behavioral Skills

These are based on Pavlovian principles and Skinner’s principles. They include:

  • To increase adaptive behavior
    • Positive reinforcement
    • Negative reinforcement
    • Token economy
  • To decrease maladaptive behavior
  • Extinction
  • Time out
  • Restraining
  • Over correction
  • To teach new behavior
  • Modeling
  • Shaping
  • Chaining
  • Cueing

Supervisory Skills

Supervision is an integral necessity for any worker in the caring profession, to ensure the best quality service for patients and best quality developmental opportunities for workers. A good supervisor requires interpersonal and professional skills, technical knowledge, leadership qualities and human skills.

Crisis Skills

Aggressive and assaultive behavior of violent patients, self-harm, acute alcohol intoxication are some of the cases a nurse is likely to encounter in the course of her practice. Such situations may cause the nurse to feel overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness, powerlessness and inadequacy. Exercise identifying ways of obtaining help from other by the psychiatric nurse when confronted with such crises situations.

Teaching Skills

This relates to the nurse’s ability to explain, enabling full understanding on the part of the patient. It also involves enhancing the patient’s environment in order to maximize his awareness of the things around him. It is necessary for the nurse to be enthusiastic about activities and choices of the patients and also give the patient every opportunity to use his power of judgment in order to make decisions.



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