Australian College of Mental Health Nurses calls for changes to improve nurse and consumer safety

Friday 8 April 2022

Recent reports about an increased number of physical assaults at Dhulwa mental health unit in Canberra have highlighted concerns about the safety of nurses and consumers, the need for specialist training, and appropriate staffing numbers in Australia’s mental health care system.

According to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, staff working at ACT Dhulwa mental health unit reported an increase in physical assaults in the months to February 2022.

“This is not an isolated case, and it points to a whole raft of issues concerning mental health care in Australia,” ACMHN Interim President Professor John Hurley said.

“We firmly stand against violence, and want nurses to feel safe at work, but we also want vulnerable consumers to get the support they so desperately need. That is only possible with sufficient staffing levels and comprehensive mental health training,” he added.

Professor Hurley said that mental health care facilities had to ensure they hired enough qualified staff and provided sufficient support and training.

“This comes back to hiring qualified mental health clinicians, such as skilled mental health nurses (MHNs), to provide appropriate levels of care to vulnerable people. Qualified MHNs are often postgraduate-trained specifically in mental health nursing, and bring years of experience in working with complex mental health presentations,” Professor Hurley said.

“At the government level, there isn’t enough awareness about what a qualified MHN is, as evidenced by the lack of MHNs featuring in budgets and policies across federal and state governments. We call on officials to talk to the ACMHN about how to identify qualified MHNs, and recognise these highly skilled mental health clinicians,” ACMHN CEO Stephen Jackson said.

“This would be an effective way to reduce violence, and keep both staff and consumers safe.” 


Australian College of Mental Health Nurses press release, consumer safety, Dhulwa mental health unit, mental health nursing, nurse safety

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