Perceived Barriers to a Career in Mental Health Nursing

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Mental health nursing is one of the most in-demand skills in the nursing profession as the number of people being diagnosed with a mental problem continue to outnumber the number of healthcare professionals who are skilled to solve that problem. This scenario is becoming acute all over the world as the citizens are losing their will to carry out everyday tasks while being at the tipping point mentally. 

In case you have been thinking about shaping a successful nursing career and are currently studying a nursing course in Canada, then mental health nursing is a great option. Canada has been experiencing a shortage of mental health nurses due to a declining number of qualified mental health nursing professionals. 

There is a high demand for mental health nurses, which has created jobs in both the public and private healthcare sectors. As Canada continues to cope with a lack of qualified nursing professionals, efforts are being made to invest in the education of nurses so that the Canadians can receive the best possible mental health care. 

Mental Health Nurses Uplift the Societal Ecosystem: 

Mental health nursing involves caring for individuals who are struggling with a mental health disorder to help them improve and recover their quality of life. While these nurses complete their nursing education, they are given a detailed knowledge of assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of psychiatric disorders that help in offering specialized care. 

Mental health nurses usually work along with other healthcare professionals in a medical team, aiming for an optimal clinical outcome for the well-being of patients. The contribution of mental health nurses helps society to deal with mental barriers, overcome them, and rise above them to lead a better life. 

A mental health nurse is responsible for: 

  • Evaluating and developing a treatment care plan in accordance with the patient’s mental health 
  • Consulting with other healthcare professionals on the accuracy of the treatment plan 
  • Offering support and psychotherapy to the patient 
  • Maintaining medical records on the condition of the patient 
  • Supporting and educating the patient and the patient’s family while overcoming the mental problem 

A mental health nurse gets an opportunity to help vulnerable people who are at their lowest in life. It is a job that can offer a purpose to the nursing profession because it deals with many problems altogether. It does not only offer the required job satisfaction, but it also helps in making a very valuable difference to the society. In essence, mental health nurses are actually akin to being a force for good. 

Although there are great benefits associated with pursuing a mental health nursing career, there are some perceived barriers that limit the students to enroll in mental health nursing programs. 

Some of these barriers are: 

1. Limited Awareness of Career Options: One of the most common barriers that limits most of the nursing students to pursue a career in mental health nursing is a lack of knowledge about career roles, pathways, and necessary qualifications. Many students lack an understanding of the field, how to get into it, and the nature of roles that are there in the field. 

In addition, some nurses also lack the confidence that they would meet the necessary standards needed to enroll in mental health nursing courses in Canada. There is a common misconception that the speciality is academically challenging as compared to other specialties. The fact is that mental health nursing is a promising field with opportunities for career progression and a pathway for further success. Students must get the required information at an early stage so that it is relatively easier to make an informed choice about a career in mental health nursing. 

Mental health nursing is a route that would suit most nurses because all humans go through some or the other mental blockages in the course of life. However, it is important for relevant information to be available if that is to happen. 

2. Stigma – Stressful Nature of the Specialty: Another barrier is that the work included in mental health nursing is considered to be stressful with that stress having many sources. Many nursing students perceive the mental health nursing specialty to be very stressful because of the complexity of dealing with vulnerable patients. Even though there is no doubt that mental health nursing can be challenging, when we come to the core of it, it is not so different from other nursing specialties. The major difference is that a mental health nurse has to be a lot more patient while dealing with the patients. 

The key is to not bring the residual of a job in their personal lives. With good supervision and support at work, it is possible to overcome the commonly perceived stressful nature of mental health nursing. In today’s healthcare system, there is a lot of support around nurses if they struggle with their work. When it comes to mental health nursing, in particular, all it takes is a heightened awareness, empathy, kindness, and patience to become better at the job. 

3. Financial Barriers: It is a common misconception that the training costs or internship programs in the field of mental health nursing are costly as compared to other programs. If you choose to study mental health nursing in Canada, the cost will be the same as any other courses. Some nurses worry about socioeconomic status being a barrier as they think that fewer financial resources will not let them undertake unpaid training opportunities. The fact is that nursing students can find many training opportunities that pay reasonably well. 

Although one cannot expect a large sum of money during the training phase, it is not impossible to find reasonably good professional training opportunities that pay well in the field of mental health nursing. 

4. Policy Limitations: There is a global lack of comprehensive mental health policies in many parts of the world that play an important role in making people struggle with mental problems. It is said that nearly one-third of all countries and almost half of all African nations do not have a comprehensive mental health care policy or plan. This is a fact that acts as a major barrier to the specialty of mental health nursing being a career choice. Countries such as Canada and the United States have detailed mental healthcare policies that can be practiced by students once they complete their nursing education.  

However, this is not the case in other parts of the world where there is a lack of a well-defined course of action in the mental health care delivery plan. Hence, the example of countries such as Canada should be followed when it comes to establishing mental healthcare policies. 

5. Limited Scope of Future Growth: Most nursing students think that there are minimal chances of climbing up the career ladder in mental health nursing because the nature of work remains the same. The truth however is that mental health nursing career varies. From working in a one on one scope with the patients to working in group settings, a mental health nurse is vital to the health of individuals and the community mental health as well. With different career objectives and in different career settings, preparing to become a mental health nurse pays off well in the long run if one takes the right professional decisions. 

It takes the successful completion of a relevant nursing program to become a registered nurse within the field of mental health in Canada. Some years of work experience and a smooth performance graph helps to move up the career ladder. Once this level is achieved, there is plenty of room for further advancement within the mental health nursing vertical while acquiring more senior-level management positions. 


Mental health nursing requires empathy, a will to help people overcome difficult mental states, and great patience. Taking the steps to make a nursing career in the field of mental health can pay off very well in the end. There are common barriers attached with this field but with proper information, one can move ahead and do wonders in mental health nursing. 


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