MH Nursing Graduate Programs Research Project

Kylie Boucher: leading the CPN's Graduate Nursing Program Research Project, and the face behind our Twitter account

At a 4/5 Educators’ Forum earlier this year, Victorian nurse educators and nurse consultants identified the need for a ‘snapshot’ of graduate nurse programs currently being offered across the state.

In response, the CPN developed and delivered a 49-question survey to all Victorian public mental health services about their individual graduate program offerings. Some of the key findings have been summarised below.

This survey represents a preliminary step in further CPN research into graduate mental health (MH) programs, with the aim of refining the data collected and enabling a more comprehensive overview of offerings from services. Further research may also include some exploration of MH nurse graduate programs in other Australian states.  The CPN’s Victorian MHN Graduate Programs Research Project will commence in early 2018, and will be led by the CPN’s Kylie Boucher.

“Graduate programs are such a critical way of attracting good people to the workforce, and to individual services”, says Kylie, “so it’s really important work, I think, getting a clear overview of what’s being offered across Victoria, to find out what works well - and what doesn’t work - in preparing our future workforce”. Graduate programs also play a critical role in developing MH-specific skills and knowledge that are not typically developed during three-year comprehensive nursing degree.

As the preliminary survey bears out, the content and structure of Victorian MH graduate programs varies widely across Victoria. It’s hoped that an understanding of this variety can help the DHHS, individual AMHSs and educational providers (such as the CPN) to re-orient and/or improve programs so that MH graduate nurses across the state are well educated and supported in their graduate year.

Key Findings from the CPN’s preliminary Victorian Graduate Nursing Programs Survey:

  1. There was considerable variation across AMHs in the provision of supernumerary and study days, and in weekly working hours arrangements. The median number of study days provided was eleven, far exceeding the five days per year covered in the EBA. Many services now have their graduates working 0.8 EFT instead of full time, in recognition of the academic demands and other challenges of a graduate year.
  2. The specifics of the learning components of programs varied considerably but four topics were covered by all services: mental state examinations; risk assessment; aggression management and de-escalation; and the Mental Health Act 2014.
  3. The majority of services expect enrolment in a postgraduate nursing course. A number of graduate programs now require students to enrol into a Masters program.
  4. Almost all AMHSs (17 out of 18) offer their graduates Clinical Supervision, with 94 percent of respondents indicating uptake was ‘satisfactory’ or ‘good’
  5. Graduate retention rates for 2015 – 2017 were high across all services
  6. Graduate retention was identified as being dependent on a range of factors; however,  ‘attractive learning and development opportunities’ was the factor mostly commonly cited by services