CONTEXT: SMILE is a Simple, Mental health, Initiative in Learning and Education. SMILE was a pilot project introduced into an undergraduate clinical nursing program, Southern Cross University, Australia 2010. The program aimed to improve the knowledge and skills of third-year nursing students participating in their first clinical placement in mental healthcare. METHODS: Complementary to the clinical nursing program and the university curriculum, SMILE provided further training and support for student learning in mental healthcare. The SMILE project was a structured 15-day education program that covered the following topics: suicide prevention; psychosis; drugs and alcohol education; mental state exam; families and carers in mental health; and the Mental Health Act. The education sessions were one hour in duration. The educational material and resources were created from current research, literature and health service policy. A problem-based learning approach was used to support this education project. The dynamic factor related to SMILE was that it was based in the field. SMILE enabled the students to bridge a theory-practice gap and expand upon their current knowledge base as well as participate in ward activity. Twenty students attending their first clinical placement in mental healthcare participated in SMILE and were asked to complete a pre- and post- evaluation questionnaire before starting and upon completion of the 15-day project. RESULTS: The students participating in SMILE reported a greater understanding of mental healthcare issues and expressed a developing knowledge base and improved practical skill level. CONCLUSION: SMILE was a positive initiative that provided valuable feedback and opportunity to improve on clinical education in mental healthcare.