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Australian nursing curricula and mental health recruitment


Philip Warelow, School of Nursing, University of Ballarat, Mt. Helen Campus, University Drive, Ballarat, VIC 3353, Australia. Email:


Debate about nursing curricula has been on the forefront of industry and academia in Australia particularly since the shift from the ‘apprenticeship style’ of training for nurses to a university-based, comprehensive, bachelor's degree. There is the suggestion that university-based courses are rather inflexible and take for granted that the provision of mental health nursing across what is an essentially general course will ultimately attract the numbers of quality staff members required to fill speciality positions in mental health. Recent literature advocates for a direct entry undergraduate mental health programme in Australia, similar to that in the UK. This is suggested as one of many strategies to address the growing disparity between the demand and the supply for effective mental health treatment and care. The support of preceptor staff in the clinical field in terms of workloads, supervision and professional development are also identified as areas for attention. Another strategy that this paper addresses is the increased support of student preceptors in the areas of workload, supervision and professional development, whereas they forge organizational links between the tertiary sector and industry to facilitate enhanced communication channels between the theoretical curriculum (the theory) and the clinical sites (the practice). Additionally, increasing the mental health content in current curricula to a level that reflects hospital-based and community mental health needs is also required.