Mental Health Nursing as a Career

So you are thinking about embarking on a career as a Mental Health Nurse, such a career will be endlessly fascinating, challenging and fulfilling.


As a newly graduated nurse or as a Registered Nurse wanting to move into a mental health setting you will need to undertake a NESP programme (New Entry to Specialist Practice) which also encompasses addiction and intellectual disability services (amongst others).

The Programme
The NESP programme has, since its inception, integrated both a clinical and an academic component to provide beginning practitioners with opportunities to apply clinical skills, as well as specialist knowledge and critical inquiry to their emerging practice. In order to assist new practitioners into this specialty practice, additional guidance and support is incorporated into the programme by designated preceptors and a clinical supervisor. The programme is delivered jointly by an academic provider and a clinical provider; two Post Graduate papers are offered over two semesters (40 weeks in total) with content specific to the development of professional skills required of a beginning practitioner nurse. These two papers can form the basis of an academic pathway towards gaining a Masters of Nursing.

Entry to the Programme
Te Pou funds 150 places nationally each year for access into the NESP programmes. Five other programmes in relation to the mental health sector are also funded by Te Pou. See for more information.

To be considered for a place on the programme new graduate nurses must apply through the ACE programme (Advanced Choice of Employment) on the Kiwi Health website. As from this year (2014) eligibility criteria has been extended to enable new graduate nurses to have a period of 24 months post registration to apply.

Nurses wanting to enter the mental health and addiction specialty who are already working in DHBs should approach the DHBs mental health nursing leader in the first instance.

Māori/Pasifika nurses
Increasing Māori and Pasifika nurses in the mental health and addiction sector is a workforce development priority, and through the networks of Te Ao Maramatanga, national workforce centres and Te Pou, cultural support is encouraged for their ongoing role and practice development.     

Voluntary Bonding Scheme
Health Workforce NZ Voluntary Bonding Scheme is a practical initiative to move graduates into the communities and specialties that need them most and retain essential health workforce in New Zealand. Those on the scheme receive annual payments to help repay their student loan or as top-up income. Nurses employed in a Mental Health Service are eligible for this voluntary bonding scheme.

Our best wishes for your future in nursing, whatever area of nursing you decide on and wherever it may take you, we know that you will find it a rewarding and interesting career.

We need action because the world we have imagined would improve people’s lives, and if we can imagine a better world, the only morally defensible thing to do is to help create it. (Destination: Recovery, Te Ūnga ki Uta: Te Oranga, 2008)