Keeping the Flame Alight: Understanding and Enhancing Interest in Mental Health Nursing as a Career

Brenda HAPPELL, Tony Welch, Lorna Moxham, L Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Mental health nursing is not regarded favourably by most Bachelor of Nursing (BN) students as a desirable career option. However, little is known about what attracts those students who do become interested. The primary aim of the current study was to explore BN students' reasons for choosing to undertake the major in mental health nursing and the degree to which completing the subject: “Recovery for mental health nursing practice”, confirmed that interest or otherwise. A secondary aim was to examine their perceptions about the attitudes of others to their expressed interest in mental health nursing. A qualitative exploratory study was undertaken with undergraduate nursing students (BN) (n = 12) enrolled in a major stream in mental health nursing. In-depth individual interviews were conducted primarily by telephone. Data were analysed using Colaizzi's steps to explicate the main themes. Two main themes emerged: Swimming against the tide – that's not real nursing, captures participants' experience of the negative attitudes of others to their interest in mental health nursing; and, creating and confirming an interest in mental health nursing, where participants discuss how their interest emerged and how it had been enhanced after completing the subject: Recovery for Mental Health Nursing Practice. Mental health nursing continues to be a stigmatised and undervalued profession both within nursing and the general public. Despite this, participants of this research were attracted to the specialty, and their interest was generally strengthened after completing the Recovery subject. Further research is required to examine the impact of being taught by an academic with lived experience on interest in mental health nursing as a career
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-165
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of Psychiatric Nursing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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