The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) is working to forge accreditation standards for postgraduate studies in mental health nursing.
In a project with Queensland Health, ACMHN is developing a national framework that will outline agreed criteria, supporting values and principles for postgraduate studies along with a course accreditation process.
ACMHN CEO Kim Ryan said the move will provide national consistency for graduate diplomas and masters qualifications in mental health nursing.
“What we are going to do with Queensland Health is develop a framework that looks at what constitutes, in mental health nursing, a graduate certificate, a graduate diploma and a masters in line with the Australian Quality Framework (AQF),” she said.
“So then universities can go – okay, this is what the college says should fit into a graduate certificate, a graduate diploma, a masters – we don’t have a framework like that for any other nursing specialty.
“This is going to help us guide what postgraduate mental health nursing should look like, so we’ve got consistency across the sector.”
Ms Ryan said it’s been largely left up to universities to decide the learning objectives for their postgraduate mental health nursing studies.
“Universities have pretty much directed what that looks like,” she said.
“If someone who has got a graduate diploma in mental health nursing, we as a profession can say – we think it’s important that they’ve been able to undertake this level of education, they have this level of knowledge, skills and education, and be able to apply that in a clinical environment.”
ACMHN is establishing an expert reference group to drive the project and plans to open the process up to consultation later this year, with the standards expected to be completed by February 27, 2015.
Ms Ryan said once completed, universities meeting the standards will have the option to seek college accreditation for their mental health nursing postgraduate studies.
“Universities have already got their courses and there will be no requirement on them to actually meet the criteria or to have their courses accredited by the college,” she said.
“But one would guess that in a market-driven environment, if you wanted to go and do a postgraduate mental health nursing course it would probably be good to try and look for one that the college has accredited.”
Ms Ryan said the project is part of the college’s objective to set and achieve national standards in high quality mental health nursing care.
“We are trying to better articulate and define what mental health nursing is and provide more opportunities to support nurses who are working in mental health,” she said.
This article first appeared on ‘Nursing Careers Allied Health’ on 12 June 2014.