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Addressing mental health nursing workforce issues in Australia: a case study analysis

Catherine Hungerford (Based at the Faculty of Health, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia)
Donna Hodgson (Based at the ACT Health Directorate, Canberra, Australia)

The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

ISSN: 1755-6228

Article publication date: 14 June 2013




The purpose of this paper is to report findings of a review of a unique program that has helped to address workforce needs and support Registered Nurses (RNs) working in a public mental health service in Australia. RNs are employed, facilitated to gain clinical experience in diverse mental health settings, and funded to study a graduate diploma in mental health nursing. Upon completion, there is no obligation to continue working for the health service, but most RNs have chosen to do so.


A case study approach was taken to review the Program, using the focus group method of data collection. Past and present Program participants, and also their mentors and managers, were interviewed about the Program's benefits and challenges.


The findings highlight the many successes of the Program and also suggest areas for development. One of these is the need to examine the curriculum content of the graduate diploma and consider requirements around clinical experience. Another area of concern is the “us/them” culture identified, which involves RNs who have no postgraduate tertiary qualifications marginalising RNs undertaking further study. Such a culture has the potential to undermine the profession locally and also more broadly.


Findings of the review provide valuable insights for other health services and also academic providers who seek to address ongoing workforce issues related to mental health nursing.



Hungerford, C. and Hodgson, D. (2013), "Addressing mental health nursing workforce issues in Australia: a case study analysis", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 89-102.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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