Addressing the mental health nurse shortage: Undergraduate nursing students working as assistants in nursing in inpatient mental health settings


Correspondence: Graeme Browne, School of Health and Human Sciences, Southern Cross University, Lismore Campus, PO Box 157, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia. Email:


The population of mental health nurses is ageing and in the next few years we can expect many to retire. This paper makes an argument for the employment of undergraduate nursing students as Assistants in Nursing (AINs) in mental health settings as a strategy to encourage them to consider a career in mental health nursing. Skill mix in nursing has been debated since at least the 1980s. It appears that the use of AINs in general nursing is established and will continue. The research suggests that with the right skill mix, nursing outcomes and safety are not compromised. It seems inevitable that assistants in nursing will increasingly be part of the mental health nursing workforce; it is timely for mental health nurses to lead these changes so nursing care and the future mental health nursing workforce stay in control of nursing.