An accredited course, or not? What's in it for students?

So, you want to undertake postgraduate mental health nursing studies?

That's fantastic! We couldn't be happier. 

Prosepctive students have often asked the ACMHN for a recommendation around the best postgraduate programs to undertake, with a view to becoming a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse. (The ACMHN recognises specialist mental health nurses through its Credential for Practice Program (CPP) and nurses applying to be credentialed under the CPP must provide evidence that specialist mental health nursing or psychiatric nursing qualifications have been obtained.) So, a scan of postgraduate mental health nursing programs was undertaken in Australia in 2011 to determine whether they met the criteria established by the ACMHN for credentialing of mental health nurses. 

The review found that of 34 Australian nurse education providers, 23 universities and one other offered courses in postgraduate mental health nursing. Only two universities identified the ACMHN Standards of Practice for Australian Mental Health Nurses as relevant to professional standards of practice, while one nursing program and one multidisciplinary program referred to the mental health competencies from the National Standards for the Mental Health Workforce. There was considerable variation in relation to expectations about specialist and advanced nursing practice. Both graduate certificate and graduate diploma programs were often described as preparing nurses for roles as:

  • beginning practitioners in mental health;
  • advanced practitioners in mental health;
  • specialty practitioners at an introductory level;
  • or proficient practitioners.

Graduates of Master degrees were generally described as being ready for advanced practice.

The review highlighted a range of issues, including:

  • inconsistency in the interpretation of specialist and advanced mental health nursing practice;
  • the amount, level and appropriateness of content in postgraduate mental health nursing programs;
  • inconsistencies across providers and the characteristics of postgraduate mental health nursing programs; and
  • the trend towards multidisciplinary programs in mental health

The ACMHN believes that people with a lived experience of mental illness and their families, have a right to work with specialist mental health nurses, who have specialist mental health nursing qualifications. We also believe that students wishing to undertake postgraduate mental health nursing studies, and who want to become a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse, should be able to undertake a program that has demonstrated that it meets the needs of the profession, that it is based on contemporary standards and philsophies, and that that it meets a minimum standard of an educational preparation. That is why we have established the accreditation process. 

Educational providers who are offering postgraduate mental health nursing programs can now opt for their program to undergo a rigorous examination by the profession, and become accredited by the ACMHN. 

This means that an accredited program has been mapped against the core values and graduate outcomes established by the profession, and that it meets the minimum standard. It also means that Grad Dip and Masters Programs that are accredited are automatically accepted as being suitable qualifications for becoming a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse.

Lastly, it means that the ACMHN can recommend, with confidence, postgraduate programs that have undergone the accreditation process! Please check our 'Accredited courses' page and get in touch with the course coordinators to discuss your mental health nursing education!