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MSc Nursing (Mental Health) (Pre-Registration)

Why we're great

  • Enjoy a real-life practical element by working alongside experienced nurses in a diverse range of clinical settings
  • Join a School that has graduates working in clinical and management positions in NHS trusts, independent hospitals and care organisations
  • Learn through a range of innovative teaching and assessment strategies, including practice assessments

Course options2017-18

Duration: 2 years
Start month: September
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Health and Human Sciences
Fee (Home/EU): £14,050
Fee may be paid by the NHS
Fee (International): £18,500
This course is only available to applicants from the UK or EU
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
PGT fees information

Duration: 2 years
Start month: October
Location: Southend Campus
Based in: Health and Human Sciences
Fee (Home/EU): £14,050
Fee may be paid by the NHS
Fee (International): £18,500
This course is only available to applicants from the UK or EU
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
PGT fees information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 872719

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About the course

Do you have experience in a healthcare role? Has it whetted your appetite for more? Are you a graduate who cares about people? If you are keen to become a health professional and want to shape the future of nursing, read on to find out how we can help you achieve these objectives.

As a mental health nurse, you focus on the therapeutic relationship with those with mental ill health, and with their families. You provide the support and treatment to meet their physical, psychological, social, mental and spiritual care needs. More than anything else, mental health nursing requires empathy, to care about the people you are working with.

Unlike many of the older, traditional nursing schools, at Essex you receive a fresh, contemporary and relevant nurse education programme integrated into a University that is one of the UK's top ten research institutions. We specialise in applied, multidisciplinary research, and also host the NIHR Research Design Service for the East of England.

There are four main types of pre-registration nursing degree – child, learning disabilities, adult and mental health. Since we focus solely on adult nursing and mental health nursing, we have developed a specialism in these areas which means that you graduate with the best training possible in your field.

Our MSc Mental Health Nursing (pre-registration) is one several options for studying nursing within our School of Health and Human Sciences, all of which lead to eligibility to apply for registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and an associated academic award; for a full list of the courses available, and information on all of the routes into Nursing available at Essex including our Return to Practice course, please see our department pages.

Placement Opportunities

In order to provide excellent clinical learning experiences for our students, we work in partnership with the NHS and with the independent health and social care sector across Essex to provide placement opportunities.

Whilst on placement you will have a mentor allocated to you, and contact with a member of the academic team linked to that placement. You will work with experienced nurses in a diverse range of clinical settings (primary and secondary care, public and private sectors, adult and the elderly, acute care and specialist services). You are encouraged to adopt a critical stance in the exploration of contemporary mental health nursing practice.

Half of your time within the programme will be spent in clinical placements which are primarily based in health care provider settings throughout Essex. Essex covers a large area (3,465 sq km /1,300 sq miles), and so clinical placements will normally be allocated to one area for the whole of your course, either in the SE Essex, SW Essex, W Essex, Mid Essex or NE Essex areas. Given the size of the county all of these areas may require some travelling to placement.


You can choose to study this course at either our Colchester campus or our Southend campus - and your placements will correspond to the campus you choose. Colchester students will have placements in north Essex, while Southend students will have placements in south Essex.

“The real-life practical element of this course was invaluable in relating the theoretical knowledge learnt in the classroom to actual work carried out by nursing staff. After I graduated, I successfully secured a position as a mental health nurse with my local NHS Trust, against nearly 50 other applicants. The experience and confidence I gained from my course really helped me secure this position.”

Paul Sykes, MSc Nursing (Mental Health) ’11, United Kingdom

Professional accreditation

We are committed to embedding the NHS Constitution Values (which are strongly reflected in our University values) into everything we do. They define the behaviours and expectations of all our staff and students, underpinning the work we do in the university, clinical arena and other workplaces.

We understand that not all of our students and staff are employed within the NHS, but these values uphold the underlying principles of excellent care as a standard and as such we expect that anyone who has any aspect of their work which ultimately cares for others, will aspire to uphold these values.

For us, involving not only our students but service users, experts by experience, carers and NHS/non NHS professionals in the creation and delivery of all programmes is vital.

Specialist facilities

The School of Health and Human Sciences is located at two sites; in the Kimmy Eldridge building at our Colchester campus and in the Gateway Building at our Southend campus.

We have purpose-built nursing skills labs at both our Colchester and Southend campuses.

Within our School of Health and Human Sciences, we have a range of specialist clinical laboratories and IT facilities to assist you with effective learning and the acquisition of new skills.

We offer excellent physical and online resources in terms of libraries, computer labs, datasets, archives and other research materials. You can take advantage of our links with the Institute of Social and Economic Research, which conducts large-scale survey projects, many for government, EU and other public agencies, and has its own library. The UK Data Archive is also based at our Colchester Campus and stores national research data.

Your future

Our first graduates qualified in 2006 and we already have graduates working in clinical and management positions in NHS trusts and independent hospitals and care organisations locally, around the UK and abroad. In addition previous graduates are also working in health research and nurse education.

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Example structure

Postgraduate study is the chance to take your education to the next level. These carefully selected modules will give you the chance to explore, question, and create powerful ideas. Picked to give you an extensive and in-depth education, they’ll equip you with the specialist knowledge, vital transferrable skills, and the confidence to make a genuine difference to the world around you.

There are four terms per year, two of 12 weeks and two of 11 weeks. The programme introduces and develops the wide variety of mental health nursing skills. You will work with experienced nurses in a diverse range of clinical settings (primary and secondary care, public and private sectors, adult and the elderly, acute care and specialist services).

Alongside this experience, you are given the opportunity to rehearse practical skills in a safe environment. Attendance at all parts of the programme is compulsory and must be evidenced in order to register as a nurse.

We’re reactive, we’re pioneering, we never stand still, so modules might change from year to year in response to new developments and innovation. Those listed below show how a typical course might look, but more detail on course structure, including details of all optional modules, is available on our Programme Specification.

Year 1

The emphasis in this module is on learning the basic nursing skills to prepare you for practice. You will be introduced to the core values of the nursing profession and explore a wide range of topics including communication, health and illness, cultural sensitivity, nursing approaches to physical and mental ill health, service user input and reflective practice.

Complex medical issues can be best addressed when interprofessional teams work together. The aim of this module is to develop your understanding of collaborative working practices by exploring current policy drivers, barriers and opportunities for team working, with the aim of improving patient care.

You will have the opportunity to build on your existing knowledge of research by exploring a variety of methodologies. This will prepare you for your second year of study when you will conduct your own original research project in an area of interest that is relevant to health care practice.

The aim of this module is to develop your ability to support and care for an individual who lacks capacity or who has compromised capacity to make decisions for themselves. You will explore a wide range of topics including the legal and ethical issues related to mental capacity, the major problems faced by such patients and the nursing approaches used to address them.

The focus of this module is on helping you to develop your skills in the assessment and diagnosis of clients within a mental health setting. You will critically examine and evaluate a number of assessment processes and explore the notion of a client centred story, whereby clients and carers are seen as vital collaborators in the gathering of useful information.

The emphasis in this module is on helping you to develop your knowledge and skills in relation to the care of clients with complex and/or enduring mental health problems. You will consider issues of vulnerability and the importance of seeing them as integral partners in the care-planning process, and look at approaches to changing health related behaviours within the context of mental health nursing.

Year 2

How does the structure and organisation of the NHS affect you as a health professional? What influence does NHS policy and the regulatory policies guidance have on your practice? You will explore and debate these topics, critically analyse national health policy and examine how patient care and safety could be improved.

The aim of this module is to further advance your research and problem solving skills enabling you to carry out your own research in your future practice. This will involve the critical appraisal of research from a variety of sources to inform your own practice.

The role of the registered nurse demands the development of leadership and management skills to ensure safe and effective delivery of care. The aim of this module is to help you develop your knowledge and skills in this area so that you can meet the individual needs of patients within a variety of clinical settings.

There is no university-based teaching in this module. You learn and practice nursing skills in the practice environment under the supervision of a mentor, completing self-directed insight books.

This module develops your ability to use skills of communication, numeracy, literacy, information and communications technology, and research in the transition to independence in learning. These skills will underpin both academic study and clinical practice contexts.

This module will help you develop the knowledge and skills relevant to the care of people with acute mental health problems. You will consider the patient as a partner in the care planning process, and look at a number of client focussed approaches used to address the complex needs of such patients.

How can we help patients with ongoing mental health needs engage in the recovery process? Communication and developing collaborative partnerships are key aspects of this module. You will develop your ability to critically analyse data and make clinical judgements in order to support and empower patients to live a meaningful life.


  • Teaching staff include clinically qualified lecturers in adult and mental health nursing, physiotherapy and pharmacy, as well as health psychologists, medical sociologists, social policy, informatics and management specialists
  • The multidisciplinary nature of our School and its rapid growth has fostered a dynamic and innovative learning environment
  • Half of your study time is spent on the University campus and half working in clinical settings – for example, a ward, a health centre, in clients’ homes


  • You are assessed through coursework, presentations, essays, case studies/portfolios, reflective accounts, OSCEs, examinations and direct observation of practice by the mentor in clinical settings
  • You also conduct a research dissertation

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UK entry requirements

Please be aware that we are not able to accept applications for deferred entry for this course.

Our applicants should have:

  • A relevant honours degree, minimum classification: Lower Second (e.g. in a life or social science such as biology- psychology, sociology, or sports science)
  • Successful performance at interview
  • For those students for whom English is not your native language, you would also need to successfully complete the IELTS testing with a score of 7.0 with no element below 7.0.

You must also have: two satisfactory references (including an academic reference and a work based one), a satisfactory Work Health Assessment/Occupational health check and enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS formerly known as CRB) – both of these are organised by the University.

In order to gain entry to the programme you must demonstrate that you have both academic achievement and appropriate voluntary/occupational experience (see below “Successful sign-off of the APEL process”).

Successful sign off of the APEL process

The requirements for the practical part are 575 hours in a care type setting. The APEL form states: ‘An appropriate setting is one that enables you to demonstrate types of practice i.e. health care assistant or working with children or adults in another setting’. The requirements for the theory are 575 hours from the third year of your undergraduate but the criteria are quite broad.

Eligibility, Fees and Funding

Access is supported by Health Education East of England consequently the course is only available to applicants classified as ‘home’ or ‘EU’ students for tuition fee purposes. In addition, applicants must also be able to meet the NHS funding criteria that you can find in the Frequently Asked Questions on the NHS bursary website.

NHS Constitution and Values

As part of the selection process, you will be expected to demonstrate good knowledge and a clear understanding of the scope of work that a mental health nurse is required to undertake as well as the significance of the NHS Constitution and its core values (you can find further information on these on the Health Education East of England website and the Gov.UK webpages.


Interviews will take place from January to July 2016 for the September 2016 intake. If you are selected for interview, you will be required to sit a literacy and numeracy test.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the undergraduate qualification you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

IELTS 7.0 overall with a minimum component score of 7.0

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

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Visit us

Open days

We hold postgraduate events in February/March and November, and open days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.


You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates.

Your application cannot be processed without these documents, so please ensure you read the guidance notes you will find in Help with your application in the drop down list next to the online application form.

Applications for September 2016 entry will be closing at 5pm GMT on 15 July 2016. Applications not fully submitted with all documents enclosed will not be considered.

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The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its course finder is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep prospective students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

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