Making a positive difference for others: Meet John Hurley

Image supplied by John Hurley

Credentialed Mental Health Nurses (CMHNs) are specialist nurses, recognised for their skills, expertise, and experience through the College’s Credential. In this special series, we hear from CMHNs about their love for the profession, and the benefits of being credentialed.

This time, Board Vice-President Professor John Hurley talks about what he enjoys most about mental health nursing, advocating for the profession, and how getting credentialed has helped pave the way for his successful career.

Why did you choose to become a mental health nurse and how long have you been working in the profession?

I started out 41 years ago training to be a general nurse in the hospital training system. At the end of my first year as a student I was thinking about leaving when I had my placement on the mental health in-patient unit at Mackay Base Hospital. I loved the opportunity to base my nursing around the relationship skills needed in mental health rather than the more task driven nature of general nursing. I knew from the first day on the unit that mental health nursing was where I could make the most difference.

What is your current role and what do you enjoy most about it?

I have a number of roles at this time that all inter-connect in some way. I am a professor of mental health with Southern Cross University where I supervise PhD students, teach, and lead on mental health research. I also have a weekly clinic at headspace where I work with young people, and I am the Vice-President of the Australian College of Mental Health Nursing where I advocate for our profession. While the research, teaching, and supervising are all interesting and satisfying, I find the experience of helping others in the clinical settings the most personally rewarding, which is where I can actually see I can make a positive difference for others. 

How did getting credentialed help you in your career?

Getting credentialed has opened up many career opportunities for me, it is only by being credentialed that I have the opportunity to work at headspace. The specialist status that credentialing bestows has given me advantages when applying for clinical nurse roles and then team leader roles on crisis services earlier in my career. Being credentialed has given me the edge over non-credentialed nurses when vying for jobs or promotion as it communicates an extra level of specialisation, professionalism, and commitment to being a mental health nurse.  

What does being credentialed mean to you?

Credentialing is so important. When mental health nursing was included in the general nursing registration being credentialed was, and still is, the only way I can be identified as a mental health nurse. For me, being credentialed gives me an experience of having a distinct professional identity and as such a sense of belonging to our discipline. 

What advice would you give to MHNs who are considering getting credentialed? What should they keep in mind?

I think it is important to ask yourself the question of ‘why should I bother?’. It’s only by asking ourselves questions that we can give ourselves considered answers. I can only offer my reasons for choosing to be credentialed. Having specialist post graduate training, membership to a professional college, and committing to continuing professional development all contribute to me being a specialist, a professional, and to being a more effective mental health nurse than if I was not credentialed.

John Hurley is a Professor of mental health at Southern Cross University and works clinically at headspace Coffs Harbour as a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse. He has accumulated over 35 years’ experience as a mental health practitioner through developing and leading psychiatric crisis and home treatment services in both Australia and the United Kingdom.  He is currently the Vice President of the Board member for the College.

Professor John Hurley


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