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”
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.
First dual master’s degree in mental health and adult nursing
“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…”
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.