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The highest of standards

New standards to guide nurses working in mental health.

New standards for mental health nursing will ensure people with mental health issues receive quality care, say those in the sector.

Launched at the end of August, the Standards of Practice for Mental Health Nurses in Australia 2010 is the product of a two and a half year development process which included extensive consultation with mental health nurses and other stakeholders.

The standards would guide all nurses working in mental health services to deliver collaborative, evidence based, recovery-focused care to consumers, said Peter Santangelo, president of Australian College of Mental Health Nurses.

“Currently nursing students can graduate from university and start work in a mental health service with less experience than you need to drive a car,” he said.

“This is woefully inadequate preparation and highlights the inequitable treatment of people with mental health issues by the health system.”

Leading a national team in developing the standards was Associate Professor Christine Neville, The University of Queensland’s program coordinator for the master of mental health nursing.

According to Neville, the old standards created additional barriers to achieving mental health care best practice for patients.

Since the development of the last standards in 1995, the context of mental health care has changed, and Neville said there had been extensive policy updates and further developments to the guiding principles for the delivery of mental health care in Australia.

“The new 2010 standards reflect these changes and work to modernise mental health nursing practices.”

The new standards were more relevant to mental health nursing today, were more flexible and were better aligned with recent government standards for mental health care, she said.

They were the foundation of “consistent, competent and compassionate care”.

“They will provide guidance for the type and level of care consumers and carers can expect from mental health nurses and help ensure optimal health outcomes are achieved for people with a mental health problem,” she said.

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