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Keywords:

  • Australia;
  • mental health assessment;
  • mental health nursing;
  • mental health triage;
  • psychiatric triage;
  • triage;
  • duty services

This paper presents the findings of a doctoral research project that involved a state-wide investigation into mental health triage nursing in Victoria, Australia. Mental health triage is a specialized domain of nursing practice that has emerged within the context of wider mental health reform in the State. The overall aim of the study was to produce a comprehensive definition and description of psychiatric triage nursing in Victoria. Methodological triangulation was used in the design of the study to enable the use of both survey (n = 139) and semi-structured interview (n = 21) data collection methods. Mental health triage nursing was found to be a complex, stressful role that involves high levels of responsibility, clinical decision making, and multiple role functions, many of which overlap into areas of practice previously the exclusive domain of medicine, such as assessment, diagnosis, and referral. The paper raises discussion on contemporary professional issues of concern to mental health triage nursing, and concludes with recommendations for the future development of the discipline.