Breaking down the stigma of mental health nursing: A qualitative study reflecting opinions from Western Australian nurses

Carole A. Harrison, Yvonne Hauck, Rebekah Ashby

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    9 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    What is known on the subject?: The rate of mental illness in the general population is ever increasing Mental health nurses are ageing, and this is not a preferred career for new graduates; thus, recruitment and retention of mental health nurses is declining Stigma is attached to the view of mental illness and the role of a mental health nurse. If this stigma can be reduced, it may provide an opportunity for the profession to become more popular and assist recruitment in this area. What the paper adds to existing knowledge?: Previous research has focused on why mental health nurses leave the profession which has not provided successful results This study adopts a new way of working whereby we gathered opinions from current mental health nurses focusing on why they originally wanted to work in mental health. What are the implications for practice?: New findings presented in this paper will guide improvements in nurse training, policy development for mental health services and improve recruitment of the next generation of mental health nurses The findings provide a strong message that in order to entice others to work in mental health, we need to first address breaking down the stigma related to mental health nursing. Abstract: Introduction A lack of understanding surrounding the role of mental health nursing is associated with recruitment and retention challenges. Additional complexities include stigma related to the role, an ageing workforce and dearth of graduates keen to pursue this career. Scientific Rational Previous research has focused on why nurses leave the profession which has not provided necessary solutions. There is a need to instead explore why nurses originally chose a career in mental health. Aim of study This qualitative study focused on opinions and experiences of existing mental health nurses to determine what could be performed to entice nurses to choose mental health. Methods A cross-sectional design involving a brief interview was conducted with 192 Western Australian nurses from one public mental health service. Results Thematic analysis revealed an overarching theme “breaking down stigma” and additional themes of: “visibility of mental health nursing” and “growing mental health nursing.” Subthemes under “visibility” included “self-promotion” plus “industry and university promotion,” whereas subthemes related to “growing” focused upon “improving the student experience.” Finally, “recognizing the mental health specialty” was identified for an attractive career pathway. Discussion This study adds to international evidence and showcases unique insights from mental health nurses into why they chose a career in mental health whilst previously replicated research focused on why nurses chose to leave. Implications for practice Findings suggest that before we can entice nurses to choose mental health, there is urgency to reduce stigma related to the role. “Breaking down stigma” will allow the role to become more visible and be represented in a more positive authentic manner. New findings in this paper will drive improvements of future nurse education, policy planning and recruitment design for the next generation of mental health nurses.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)513-522
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
    Volume24
    Issue number7
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017

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