A selective review of mental health nursing in New South Wales, Australia, in relation to clinical supervision


  • Edward White,

    Corresponding author
    1. Faculty of Science, Health and Education, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Queensland, and
    2. School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, and
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  • Michael Roche

    1. Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, University of Technology, Lindfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Edward White, PhD, MSc (SocPol), MSc (SocRes), PGCEA, RMN, DipCPN, RNT, FANZCMHN, FCN.

  • Michael Roche, DipApSc, BHSc, CertMHN, MHSc.

Edward White, Faculty of Science, Health and Education, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Qld 4558, Australia. Email: edward.white@ozemail.com.au


ABSTRACT: Recent reports have suggested that mental health staff have added stress, which arose from poor working conditions, heavy workloads, and lack of resources, within a culture in which there was a large degree of burnout, low morale, lack of job satisfaction, poor status, insensitivity and indifference. This is particularly so for mental health nurses, who create the ambience in clinical settings. Previous research has shown that the introduction of clinical supervision, as a central plank of clinical governance arrangements, has a positive effect in some of these respects, but remains underdeveloped in Australia. The present scoping study examined the extent to which this was so in mental health nursing services in the state of New South Wales. Individual mental health nurses (n =  601) and Area Health Services (n =  17) provided data about their local circumstances. Findings revealed that mental health nursing in New South Wales was a committed, late middle-aged workforce, working in services about which there was a width of opinion with the prevailing management arrangements, yet to fully exploit their therapeutic potential, or engage the educational opportunities that would assist them in their endeavour. More specifically, it remained a workforce that has yet to engage clinical supervision in a systematically coherent manner. The study concluded, therefore, that clinical supervision offered a possible practical remedy to address the causes and the effects of suboptimal service provision and that the ready availability of dedicated funding and the immediate access to service development and research expertise was a rare and timely confluence.