|Authors||Neville, Christine (Author), Eley, Diann (Author), Quinn, John (Author), Weir, Jim (Author), Hegney, Desley (Author), Hangan, Catherine (Author) and Grasby, David (Author)|
There are many changes and challenges facing the mental health care professional working in Australia in the 21st Century. Given the significance of their number and
the considerable extent to which care is delivered by them, mental health nurses in particular must be at the forefront of the movement to enhance and improve mental
health care. Mental health nurses in Australia must not only keep up with the changes, we should be setting the pace for others across the profession worldwide. The
increasingly complex field of mental health nursing demands nurses who are not only equipped to face the challenges but are confident in doing so. Definitive guidelines for
practice, clear expectations regarding outcomes and specific means by which to evaluate both practice and outcomes are vital.
Strengthening the role and vision of mental health nursing so that there is clarity about both and highlighting core values by which to perform will enable us to become
focused on our future and what we can expect to both give to and receive from our chosen profession and how we can, and do, contribute to mental health care. The role
of the mental health nurse is undergoing expansion and there are new hurdles to overcome along with the new benefits this brings. To support this, nationally adopted, formalised standards of practice and means by which to measure these, i.e., practice indicators formerly known as clinical indicators, are required. It is important to have
national standards and practice indicators because of the variances in the provision of mental health across Australia – different legislation regarding mental health policies
and processes, different nursing registration bodies and Nursing Councils, for example – which create additional barriers to cohesion and uniformity.
Improvements in the practice of mental health nursing lead to benefits for consumer outcomes as well as the overall quality of mental health care available in Australia.
The emphasis on rights-based care, particularly consumer and carer rights, demands evidence-based, up-to-date mental health care delivered by competent, capable
professionals. Documented expectations for performance by nurses will provide all involved with yardsticks by which to evaluate outcomes. Flowing on from these benefits are advances in mental health care generally and enhancements to Australia’s reputation and position within the health care arena throughout the world.
Currently, the ‘Standards for Practice’ published by the Australian New Zealand College of Mental Health Nurses (ANZCMHN) in 1995 and the practice indicators
developed by Skews et al. (2000) provide a less formal guide for mental health nurses working in Australia. While these earlier standards and practice indicators have
played some role in supporting mental health nurses they have not been nationally or enthusiastically adopted and there are a multitude of reasons for this. This report
reviews the current literature available on practice indicators and standards for practice and describes an evidence-based rationale as to why a review and renewal of
these is required and why it is important, not just for mental health nurses but to the field of mental health in general. The term ‘practice indicator’ is used, except where a quotation utilises ‘clinical indicator’, to more accurately reflect the broad spectrum of nursing roles, i.e. not all mental health nursing work involves a clinical role.