Who cares for the mentally ill? Theory and practice hours with a 'mental illness' focus in nursing curricula in Australian universities. Academic Article uri icon


  • Should we be concerned about the amount of undergraduate and postgraduate theory and practice hours nurses undertake caring for people with mental illness? Information on mental health curricula was sought from all university schools of nursing in Australia. There was an 84% response rate. For undergraduate courses the findings indicated great variability among schools. In one school students had 30 hours theory and no practice hours, compared with another school's 128 hours of theory and 200 practice hours. Few courses were available at the postgraduate level and the content of these courses did not appear to reflect students' previous experience in mental health/psychiatric nursing. This implies that students could graduate with limited practical experience. Without a clearly articulated career pathway, based on nationally agreed practice and educational requirements, it is difficult to see how mental health/psychiatric nurses can continue to claim they belong to a professional specialist discipline.

publication date

  • January 1, 1996