Mental health nurses

In 2015, about 1 in 15 (6.9%) nurses (both registered and enrolled nurses) employed in Australia indicated they were working principally in mental health. Over 4 in 5 of these were registered nurses (85.4%), the remainder enrolled nurses; a similar profile to the total nursing workforce (AIHW 2016).

State and territory

There were 84.2 FTE mental health nurses per 100,000 population working in Australia in 2015, with rates ranging from 70.3 in the Australian Capital Territory to 95.3 in Western Australia (Figure WK.5). In terms of time spent as a clinician, there were 77.2 clinical FTE mental health nurses per 100,000 population at a national level, ranging from 61.7 in the Australian Capital Territory to 88.0 in Western Australia.

Figure WK.5: Mental health nurses, FTE and clinical FTE per 100,000 population, states and territories, 2015

Clustered bar chart showing the number of FTE and clinical FTE mental health nurses by state or territory in 2015. WA had the highest number of FTE and clinical FTE mental health nurses at 95.3 FTE and 88.0 clinical FTE per 100, 000 population, followed by Tas (90.9 and 84.2), SA (89.3 and 81.9), Vic (88.3 and 80.3), NT (82.0 and 74.8), NSW (80.6 and 74.0) Qld (77.4 and 71.4) and the ACT (70.3 and 61.7). The total was 84.2 FTE and 77.2 clinical FTE mental health nurses. Refer to table WK.11.

Sources: NHWDS: nurses and midwives 2015

Source data: Mental health workforce Table WK.11 (1.54MB XLS)

Remoteness area

Over three-quarters of FTE mental health nurses (76.2%) were employed in Major cities in 2015. Major cities had the highest rate of FTE mental health nurses (90.4 FTE per 100,000 population), followed by Inner regional (80.3), Remote (57.5), Outer regional (51.1) and Very remote (31.6) areas (Figure WK.6).

Figure WK.6: Mental health nurses, FTE and clinical FTE per 100,000 population by remoteness area, 2015

Clustered bar chart showing the number of FTE and clinical FTE mental health nurses per 100,000 population by remoteness area in 2015. Major cities had the highest number of FTE and clinical FTE mental health nurses at 90.4 and 83.0 per 100,000 population, followed by Inner regional (80.3 and 73.6), Remote (57.5 and 52.8), Outer regional (51.1 and 46.2) and Very remote areas (31.6 and 29.2). Refer to Table WK.12.

Sources: NHWDS: nurses and midwives 2015

Source data: Mental health workforce Table WK.12 (1.54MB XLS)

Hours worked per week

In 2015, mental health nurses reported working an average of 36.5 total hours per week, with averages ranging from 35.5 hours per week in South Australia to 39.0 hours in the Northern Territory (Figure WK.7). The average clinical hours worked per week reported by mental health nurses was 33.5 hours at the national level, ranging from 32.0 hours in the Australian Capital Territory to 35.6 hours in the Northern Territory (Figure WK. 7).

Figure WK.7: Mental health nurses, average total and clinical hours worked per week, states and territories, 2015

Clustered bar chart showing the average total and clinical hours worked per week by mental health nurses by state or territory in 2015. Mental health nurses in NT reported on average the highest number of total and clinical hours (39.0 and 35.6), followed by WA (37.6 and 34.8), NSW (36.9 and 33.9), Qld (36.5 and 33.6), ACT (36.4 and 32.0), Tas (36.3 and 33.7), Vic (35.9 and 32.7) and SA (35.5 and 32.5). The national total average was 36.5 total and 33.5 clinical hours. Refer to Table WK.11.

Sources: NHWDS: nurses and midwives 2015

Source data: Mental health workforce Table WK.11 (1.54MB XLS)


Mental health nurses employed in Very remote (41.6 hours) and Remote (40.8 hours) areas reported working the highest average number of total hours per week in 2015. Mental health nurses employed in Very remote areas also reported working the most clinical hours on average (38.4 clinical hours), followed closely by those employed in Remote areas (37.4 clinical hours).

Characteristics

About 3 in 5 mental health nurses (59.5%) were aged 45 and above in 2015; almost a third (31.9%) were aged 55 and older and about 1 in 20 (4.7%) were aged 65 and over (Figure WK.8). Almost one-third (31.1%) of the mental health nursing workforce were male, compared with about 10.7% of all nurses in Australia (AIHW 2016).

Figure WK.8: Mental health nurses, by sex and age group, 2015

Stacked vertical bar chart showing mental health nurses by age group and sex in 2015. The majority of mental health nurses were aged between 45–54 (27.6%25), closely followed by 55–64 years (27.1%25), 35–44 years (20.8%25), less than 35 years (19.7%25) and 65 years and older (4.7%25). The proportion of females per age group compared to males was greatest for those aged between 45–54 years, followed by 55–64 years. Refer to Table WK.9.

Sources: NHWDS: nurses and midwives 2015

Source data: Mental health workforce Table WK.9 (1.54MB XLS)

Male mental health nurses worked more total and clinical hours per week on average than female nurses (males 38.2 total hours and 34.9 clinical hours; females 35.8 total hours and 32.9 clinical hours) in 2015. Registered nurses worked more total hours on average than enrolled nurses (36.8 and 34.8 hours respectively), however, the average clinical hours for both nursing types was similar (33.4 and 33.8 hours respectively).

Over time

There was an increase between 2011 and 2015 in the supply of mental health nurses, from 77.0 to 84.2 FTE per 100,000 population. The proportion of male and female mental health nurses remained relatively stable over this time period (Figure WK.9). The proportion of registered nurses also remained fairly stable at around 85% over the same period.

Figure WK.9: Proportion of employed mental health nurses, by sex, 2011–2015Line chart showing the proportion of employed mental health nurses by sex from 2011–15. The proportion of female mental health nurses has remained relatively stable from at 68.0%25 in 2011 to 68.9%25 in 2015. Refer to Table WK.9.

Sources: NHWDS: nurses and midwives 2015

Source data: Mental health workforce Table WK.9 (1.54MB XLS)

The proportion of the mental health nurse workforce aged 55 and over increased from 27.2% in 2011 to 31.9% in 2015.

The average hours worked by mental health nurses remained stable between 2011 and 2015, at about 37 hours for registered nurses and about 35 hours for enrolled nurses.

Most FTE mental health nurses (93.4%) reported their principal area of work to be a clinician, followed by administrator (3.7%) and teacher or educator (2.2%). The most common work setting reported was hospitals (63.4%, excluding outpatient services), followed by community health care services (21.2%) and residential health care facilities (5.0%).

< Psychiatrists | Psychologists >