Scope of Practice: what do mental health nurses do?

We know what we do (on an individual basis)... but how do we explain this to others? How do we discuss 'what we do' as a profession with each other, with government and other funding bodies, with the media and the community? How do we ensure that others do not dictate to us, as a profession, what we do and how our practice should be limited - particularly in relation to funding and practice models? Development of a 'Mental Health Nursing Scope of Practice' - that's how!!!

The ACMHN Scope of Practice research project was launched by Ms Heloise Waislitz, CEO of the Pratt Foundation and College Patron, at the 2010 Oration and Investiture in Hobart. The Pratt Foundation has funded the Scope of Practice Project.


Mental Health Nurses in Australia Scope of Practice 2013 & Standards of Practice 2010

The ACMHN would like to thank the Pratt Foundation for financially supporting the College to enable completion of the Scope of Practice Project; and the mental health nurses, consumers and carers who generously contributed to the project through participation in the Delphi survey process or by providing considered feedback and advice, without whom, this project would not have been possible.



I am delighted to provide the opening remarks regarding this document. Scope of practice describes what we do as mental health nurses and in the complex and changeable world of health care it has been never more important than now for mental health nurses to define and claim their scope using contemporary benchmarks. Moreover, it is important for mental health nurses to engage with and then determine roles and functions that create opportunities for professional growth and  development.

Given that nurses practice in a variety of contexts and with diverse populations, their scope of practice needs to be flexible and evolving to account for specific demands and to permit the expansion and extension of practice, ultimately leading to advanced practice roles. A clearly defined scope of practice also enables others to understand what it is we do. So as we place the consumer at the heart of care carers, families and communities can observe the varied practice of the mental health nurse. In addition, a scope of practice sustains the development of mental health workforce, and informs health systems, health policy and health regulators.

A scope of practice is not a job description, a task list or an outcomes measure. However, it does provide the extent to which a mental health nurse works. The descriptors depict the array of activities but do not specify the relative importance of any. The Scope of Practice of Mental Health Nurses in Australia 2013 harmonises with the Standards of Practice for Australian Mental Health Nurses 2010, and you will see them together in this manuscript.

We are indebted to the Pratt Foundation, which provided funding to develop the Scope of Practice of Mental Health Nurses in Australia 2013.

I congratulate Dr Catherine Hungerford (Chair, ACMHN Research Committee 2011-2013) who led a small research team in managing this significant project, which involved multiple phases and nearly 2000 participants.

I commend the Scope of Practice of Mental Health Nurses in Australia 2013 to you.

Wendy Cross
President, ACMHN


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