Fit for Purpose? Promoting the Human Side of Mental Health Nursing

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Currently, preparation of mental health (MH) nurses appears to emphasize tangible, highly visible skills acquisition. While few credible MH nurses would argue with the need for some acquisition of skills during nurse training, it is the emphasis on this acquisition of skills at the expense of the development of certain other qualities that is questionable. This article argues that the 'human side' of MH nursing should not be forgotten or ignored and draws attention to evidence of the invisibility of some aspects of MH nursing. It also draws attention to how 'human-focused' MH nursing practice may be inhibited by market forces, the pressures of economic restraints and the current preoccupation with 'quick-fixes'. It points out that within the field of psychiatry and MH care, there is evidence that some nurses have returned to 1930s neo-Darwinian perspectives of the mind. The article suggests that it is unlikely that current MH nurse training, with its emphasis on neurobiology and masculine approaches to care, adequately prepares MH nurses for ways of working which are described in this article as the 'proper focus of nursing'. Additionally, the article points out that a view of the development of MH nurse training that includes more training in psychotherapeutic approaches to care is not evidence of a fanciful, unrealistic or Utopian view of MH nurse preparation.


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