Enabling professional development in mental health nursing: The role of clinical leadership

Gary ENNIS, Brenda HAPPELL, K Reid-Searl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Clinical leadership is important for the strength of mental health nursing as a profession, particularly in utilizing clinical-based opportunities for the professional development of new graduates and nursing students. To date, there has been limited research examining the attributes of nurses considered by their colleagues to be clinical leaders. This study presents the views and experiences of mental health nurses who deliver care, about what they identify as important for effective clinical leadership. Clinical teaching and role modelling are two fundamental roles of effective clinical leaders; they are underpinned by the attributes of professionalism, honesty, willingness to share knowledge and approachability. Additional research is needed to consider the applicability of these roles and attributes across larger samples of nurses in mental health settings. Clinical leadership is acknowledged as important to the nursing profession. While studies continue to identify its significance in contributing to positive outcomes for consumers, the role that clinical leadership has in enabling and supporting professional development in mental health nursing is poorly understood. This study utilized a grounded theory methodology to explore the characteristics clinicians consider important for clinical leadership and its significance for mental health nursing in day-to-day clinical practice. Individual face-to-face, semi-structured interviews were conducted with nurses working in mental health settings. Participants described the important role that clinical leaders play in enabling professional development of others through role modelling and clinical teaching. They describe how nurses, whom they perceive as clinical leaders, use role modelling and clinical teaching to influence the professional development of nursing staff and undergraduate nursing students. Attributes such as professionalism and honesty were seen, by participants, as enablers for clinical leaders in effectively and positively supporting the professional development of junior staff and undergraduate nurses in mental health nursing. This paper examines clinical leadership from the perspective of mental health nurses delivering care, and highlights the important role of clinical leaders in supporting professional development in mental health nursing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)616-622
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


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