Perceptions of professional identity in mental health nursing and the implications for recruitment and retention

  • Gylo Hercelinskyj

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Mental illness and its consequences present an ongoing challenge in terms of the provision of accessible, timely and evidence based interventions by suitably qualified mental health clinicians. Contemporary mental health services have been transformed with the introduction of primary health care and recovery based models of care. However, the numbers of nursing graduates entering mental health have been steadily declining and there is limited retention of experienced mental health nurses within the health care system.

    This naturalistic study gathered the views of a group of experienced mental health nurses and a group of student nurses. It used a qualitative exploratory descriptive design to explore participants’ understanding of their role as mental health nurses and the impact of this on their professional identity within the theoretical framework of Role Theory. The study found that changes to the role of the mental health nurse have impacted on professional identity and that this has implications for ongoing recruitment and retention. In particular, the development of generic mental health clinician roles has caused mental health nurses to experience increasing role strain related to role ambiguity and role conflict.

    This study has contributed to existing research into the professional identity of mental health nurses in relation to their role in contemporary practice. It has enunciated the complexity of the mental health nurse’s role and explored the impact of changes to mental health service delivery, developments in nurse education and the inherent challenges of an increasingly complex consumer group.

    Recommendations related to undergraduate nursing education and support and professional development for mental health nurse clinicians have been made. These will assist in the development of strategies to improve recruitment and retention and promote mental health nursing as a career choice.
    Date of AwardAug 2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMary Cruickshank (Supervisor), Peter Brown (Supervisor) & Brian Phillips (Supervisor)

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