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Implementation of a major in mental health nursing in Australian universities
The difficulty recruiting and retaining an adequate mental health nursing workforce is acknowledged. The major in mental health nursing has been identified as a strategy to promote this specialist area of practice as desirable for students’ future careers. Measuring its success requires the collection of detailed data about the structure, content, and uptake of these programmes. A survey was specifically developed to elicit descriptive information about the structure and content of a major in mental health nursing programmes. Fourteen universities participated in this research. Eight had implemented a major, one intends to do so in 2011, and five had abandoned or suspended their plans for the major. The findings suggest considerable variation in both structure and content of the major in mental health nursing throughout Australia. Students are required to commit to and commence the programme at differing stages, and there is a substantial variation in the theoretical and clinical content in mental health undertaken as a requirement for the major. The numbers of students taking the major is relatively small in most universities; however, the retention rates are favourable. These findings provide important data for discussion about the ideal structure and content of a major in mental health nursing.