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Appreciating history: The Australian experience of direct-entry mental health nursing education in universities


  • Brenda Happell, RN, RPN, BA (Hons), Dip Ed., B Ed., M Ed., PhD.

Brenda Happell, Department of Health Innovation and Centre for Social Science Research, Central Queensland University, Bruce Highway, Rockhampton, Qld 4702, Australia. Email:


More than two decades since the introduction of comprehensive nursing education in Australia, the controversy regarding the type of undergraduate education that would best serve the needs of the mental health nursing profession continues. The ensuing debate tends to be based on a comparison between the current model of comprehensive education in the universities and the specialist mental health nursing programs that previously operated within the hospital system. The previous existence of a tertiary-based direct-entry mental health nursing program in Victoria is generally not recognized. The paper provides a brief overview of mental health nursing education from a historical perspective emphasizing the period following the commencement of the transfer of the nursing education. Articulating the Victorian experience of specialist undergraduate mental health nursing education within universities is essential as discussions about the most appropriate educational preparation for mental health nursing continues.