VICTOR What Challenges Do Mental Health Nurses Face

What Challenges Do Mental Health Nurses Face?

The importance of mental health nurses cannot be understated. Their role within the healthcare industry involves an incredible range of duties, encompassing not only clinical expertise but also empathy and unwavering support.

However, mental health nursing is an incredibly demanding profession, with the challenges that nurses face on a daily and weekly basis taking a massive toll on their wellbeing and overall work.

Stress, safety concerns, and more severely impact nurses’ workflow and damage workforce retention, leading to a large shortage of mental health nurses within the healthcare industry.

Keep reading as we break down the challenges that mental health nurses face and how and why VICTOR is able to help.

Workplace Stress

Workplace stress is incredibly common among healthcare workers. In fact, those working in the healthcare industry experience high stress and burnout at rates up to 70%.

Mental health nurses often work long hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays. Frequently working long shifts disrupts natural sleep patterns, which can lead to fatigue and increased susceptibility to stress-related issues.

The demanding nature of their work, coupled with exposure to trauma, complex patient needs, and resource limitations, contributes to elevated stress levels. 

On top of this, workplace stress can have detrimental effects on mental health nurses’ job satisfaction and retention rates. Nurses who experience high labels of stress may feel disillusioned with their work, leading to decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover rates within the profession.

Workplace stress can also impact the quality of patient care provided by mental health nurses. High levels of stress may compromise nurses’ ability to communicate with patients effectively, make clinical judgements, and provide compassionate care, ultimately affecting patient outcomes. 

Safety Concerns

Safety is a major concern for mental health nurses, who often work in environments where they may face a range of unpredictable and potentially dangerous situations. 

From managing aggressive or violent behaviours to preventing self-harm and ensuring the safety of both patients and staff, mental health nurses have to navigate a wide range of challenges in their day-to-day lives.

Ambulance staff face the possibility of violence, abuse, and aggression on every single shift they have. Every day during the 2020/2021 financial year, a staggering 32 ambulance staff were abused or attacked; more than one every hour of every day, which equates to a total of 11,749 staff.

One of the most significant safety concerns for mental health nurses is the risk of encountering aggressive or violent behaviours from patients. Individuals experiencing acute mental health crises may exhibit aggression towards themselves or others, posing a threat to the safety of both nurses and their colleagues.

To combat these safety concerns, mental health nurses must undergo training in de-escalation techniques to effectively manage such situations while prioritising the safety and wellbeing of all involved.

In addition to the immediate safety concerns, mental health nurses must also consider the long-term impact of their work on their occupational health and wellbeing.

Frequent exposure to stress, trauma, and safety risks can contribute to burnout, fatigue, and other adverse health outcomes among nurses. Prioritising self-care, accessing support services, and creating a safe and supportive work environment are essential for safeguarding the physical and psychological wellbeing of mental health nurses.

By addressing these safety concerns and implementing proactive measures to mitigate risks, mental health nurses can create safer care environments and better protect themselves and their patients from harm.

Emotional Toll

The constant exposure to suffering can take a toll on nurses’ emotional wellbeing, leading to feelings of helplessness and sadness. On top of this, the emotional toll of caring for individuals with mental illnesses means mental health nurses are particularly susceptible to fatigue and burnout.

Maintaining boundaries between personal and professional compassion and involvement is tough for mental health nurses. While empathy and compassion are essential components of nursing practice, nurses must also safeguard their own wellbeing to prevent exhaustion.

Mental health nurses often form deep connections with their patients, forging bonds built on trust, empathy, and shared experiences. When patients experience setbacks, relapses, or even death, nurses must learn to manage these feelings of loss and grief.

Coping with the death of a patient can be particularly challenging for mental health nurses, as they must continue to provide care and support to other patients in need when they are also suffering.

Providing support during crises, witnessing suffering, and managing their own emotional responses can lead to exhaustion and a diminished sense of fulfilment in their own work, contributing even more to the increasing turnover rate within the healthcare industry. 

Resource Limitations

Resource limitations post significant challenges for mental health nurses, impacting their ability to provide quality care and support for individuals experiencing mental illnesses.

One of the most pressing resource limitations in mental health care settings is staffing shortages. Due to budget constraints, recruitment difficulties, and high staff turnover rates, many mental health units struggle to maintain adequate nurse-to-patient ratios, placing an incredible strain on nursing staff. Limited staffing levels can compromise patient safety, increase workloads, and contribute to feelings of stress among nurses.

Mental health nursing also requires specialised knowledge and skills to effectively assess, diagnose, and treat individuals experiencing mental health illnesses. However, many mental health nurses face challenges accessing training opportunities due to limited resources and funding constraints. Inadequate training can hinder nurses’ ability to provide quality, effective care.

How Can VICTOR Help?

VICTOR provides specialist support to mental health nurses and NHS hospital staff so challenging incidents can be dealt with safely, thus minimising the risk of injuries to individuals and staff.

VICTOR should be called if:

  • Your staff feel threatened or face attacks. VICTOR’s trained team are on hand to de-escalate the situation safely and ensure the patient receives the essential care they need.
  • Patient interventions are likely to be met with violence or aggression.

We help to create a safer environment for psychiatric in-patient bedded facilities, assessment centres, and emergency departments. Some of the times when we are on hand to help include:

  • When staff have to deal with violent or threatening behaviour caused by those experiencing a mental health crisis.
  • If the fear of being subject to an attack is damaging staff morale and mental health.
  • If teams have to respond to incidents without the appropriate PPE to help keep them safe.

If you need to contact us, you can do so by calling 0330 320 1159 or emailing