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Exclusive: First dual master's degree in mental health and adult nursing launched


A new master’s level degree that will lead to dual registration as a mental health and adult nurse is being launched by a London university.

The City University course is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, as current dual registration programmes are only available at undergraduate level.

“Being able to employ somebody who already has those skills [in both mental and physical health] is very attractive”

Julie Attenborough

The pre-registration course, commissioned by workforce planning body Health Education England, will see students receive 50% of their theory and practice hours focused on adult nursing and the other half on mental health nursing.

Those behind the degree said it would help to tackle concerns that adult nurses were not being trained with sufficient mental health knowledge, and that mental health nurses did not have enough understanding of physical health – despite the fact patients often had both types of health problems.

“We know mental health illness has such a big impact on the physical health of people. So they are much more likey to have diabetes or heart conditions… Conversely, people with a long term physical health condition are more likely to suffer from mental health problems,” said Julie Attenborough, associate dean of the school of health sciences at City University.

Early discussions with the university’s local employer, East London NHS Foundation Trust, had indicated they would be “very keen” to employ graduates of the course, she told Nursing Times.

City University

First dual master’s degree in mental health and adult nursing

Julie Attenborough

“From their point of view, in an acute ward in a London hospital – where you might have to bring in an agency nurse to work with someone who has mental health problems who happens to be on a cardiac ward – being able to employ somebody who already has those skills is very attractive,” said Ms Attenborough.

Chris Caldwell, dean of healthcare professions at Health Education England North, Central and East London, told Nursing Times it had commissioned the course due to demand from mental health trusts that said the calibre of students from postgraduate pre-registration programmes was high.

“Directors of nursing tell us nurses educated through this route are able to settle into practice and progress rapidly across mental health nursing,” she said.

”We wanted to further build on this calibre through the three-year dual registration masters programme because it is anticipated that graduates will move quickly into leadership roles in settings such as emergency department and complex in-patient services,” she said.

The Adult and Mental Health Nursing MSc course comes after a major report last year on nurse training and education – the Shape of Caring review – suggested all pre-registration students in the future receive more general training in both physical and mental health before specialising.

Ms Attenborough said the new degree was not created in direct response to the review, as it had begun development prior to its publication. However, she said it was based on the same principles.

Mental health nurses have expressed concerns that moves to increase general training during a three-year registration programme would dilute the field of mental health nursing, due to less time spent specialising.

“We know mental health illness has such a big impact on physical health…”

Julie Attenborough

When asked if City’s three-year fast-track master’s course might also leave graduates with less specialist skills in the field than those on current undergraduate courses, Ms Attenborough argued this would not be the case.

She said the course was more “concentrated” and busier than an undergraduate degree, due to it being a master’s programme.

The fact that students would already have acquired many study skills from having previously been to university also helped to free up more time for clinical training, she said.

A total of 10 students are expected to begin the course this September, which requires at least a 2:2 grade from a previous degree of any type and a minimum of 500 practice hours in a clinical setting.

In addition, three students studying for a postgraduate diploma in nursing at the university have already been able to “top up” their qualification and begin the master’s programme.


Readers' comments (7)

  • I draw your attention to msc course offered at Keele, Nurse training, accelerated 2yrs.

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  • Not sure what your point is there? There are postgrad courses already available, this will be the first with dual registration

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  • There are dual programmes for undergrad pre-reg at present (Southampton, for example)
    There are also several graduate-entry MA/pgDip pre-reg courses,
    This course appears to combine both, which is a positive. I was interested in the both a graduate-entry pgDip (2-yr), and the dual-branch BN (4-yrs). If a dual-branch graduate-entry scheme had been available, this would have been great. Back when my Mom did her training, doing the SRN, then RM, working abroad for a bit, then specialising (in this case, DN-Sr), was quite the norm for her set. They didn't earn very much, but they had breath and depth. Let's hope that the attention to the importance of broad and deep knowledge is encouraged through available provision. It is helpful for non-mental health specific settings to have people with broad knowledge, as it can be distressing to elderly and other vulnerable groups when they enter medical/surgical wards as patients.

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  • The NHS are interested in nurses at basic RN levels and offer jobs and salaries to match. MSc in healthcare management is not recognised and they do not offer jobs at that level as they recruit internally from those with years of service but without the qualifications. Outside the UK the post grad degree is not recognised by university registering bodies, or health services as healthcare management is not a vocational qualification. A masters such as described in the article or in nursing studies where there is a practice element may be more acceptable. So much for universities selling their courses as a good step up the career ladder.

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  • I am an RN with a wealth of adult nursing experience and qualifications, including the ICU course.
    I studied my MSc in Applied Mental Health and I can honestly say it has enhanced my work as a nurse. I understand and im able to deal effectively with emiotnal , psychological and psychiatric issues when they rise. This is not just with patients, it applies to staff too, who may be affected by a sudden death, personal issues impacting on their work, relatives of patients who have died and many other examples I could mention. I feel this is a good course to have and throughout my career i have found RMN nurses do lack an understanding of physical healthcare issues and vice versa. I personally welcome this course and its not before time!

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  • there used to be a RMN conversion course from RMN and visa versa but this was stopped

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  • Whatever next. Degree in applied environmental hygiene for hospital cleaners with the opportunity to progress onto the PhD Mental Health and Adult nursing pre-registration course.

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