Mental health nurses bring integrated care in Far West NSW

  • Mental health nurse, Trevor Player, with a mental health nursing student and a client at the Rural and Remote Medical Service, Bourke NSW
    Mental health nurse, Trevor Player, with a mental health nursing student and a client at the Rural and Remote Medical Service, Bourke NSW

Photo: NSW Outback Division of General Practice

Research published in 2017 showed that, on average, remote Australians die from suicide at twice the rate of those in metropolitan areas yet are only able to access mental health services at a fifth of the rate of city people.

To help address this issue the Mental Health Nurse Initiative Program (MHNIP) was commissioned by the New South Wales Outback Division of General Practice (NSWODGP).

The Program provides remote communities in Far West New South Wales with a versatile mental health clinician. The role is based around a stepped model of care that aims to integrate mental health care across primary, secondary and acute health care settings. The mental health nurses work closely with psychiatrists and GPs to provide collaborative and coordinated holistic clinical care to treat people with severe and enduring mental health conditions.

The Program employs two full time mental health nurses. The MHNIP nurses work in a variety of settings including clinics, Local Health District hospitals and patients’ home environments. Over the past year the NSWODGP has worked with mental health clinicians to roll out the program to Bourke, Lightning Ridge, Cobar and Nyngan. NSWODGP is hoping to expand this service to other communities and is looking for staff.

The program has been well received by these remote communities. It has improved care coordination and mental health care delivery as well as overall prevention and access to resources. The care model has eased general practitioners’ workloads. Over the nine months since the program’s inception, the mental health nurses across the region provided 1,430 individual client sessions in response to 366 referrals. GPs in the region have described the program as “one of a kind” and “supportive, innovative and personal”.

The MHNIP nurses are integrated into the community. The MHNIP role is personal, face-to-face and often practice based.

The nurses understand the communities in which they work, the different stressors and the unique needs of particular communities. The MHNIP care model has a personal and tangible approach to mental health care.

For those working with the program, the MHNIP is personally very rewarding. It allows the development and growth of clinical skills in a supported autonomous work environment. The MHNIP has made a difference to people’s lives, and experiencing these tangible clinical outcomes is fulfilling.   


Need to talk to someone? If you need immediate assistance, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression, contact beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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