Physical health care for people with mental illness: Training needs for nurses

Brenda Happell, Chris Platania-Phung, David Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: People diagnosed with serious mental illness have higher rates of physical morbidity and decreased longevity, yet these people are not adequately served by health care systems. Nurses may provide improved physical health support to consumers with serious mental illness but this is partly dependent on nurses having necessary skills and interest in training opportunities for this component of their work. This survey investigated Australian nurses' interest in training across areas of physical health care including lifestyle factors, cardiovascular disease, and identifying health risks. Methods: A nation-wide online survey of nurse members of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses. The survey included an adapted version of a sub-section of the Physical Health Attitudes Scale. Participants were asked to indicate their interest in various aspects of physical health care training. Results: Most (91.6%) participants viewed educating nurses in physical health care as of moderate or significant value in improving the physical health of people with serious mental illness. Interest in training in all areas of physical health care was over 60% across the health care settings investigated (e.g. public, private, primary care). Forty-two percent sought training in all nine areas of physical health care, from supporting people with diabetes, to assisting consumers with sexually-related and lifestyle issues. Conclusions: The findings suggest that nurses in mental health services in Australia acknowledge the importance of training to improve physical health care of consumers with serious mental illness. Training programs and learning opportunities for nurses are necessary to reduce inequalities in health of people with serious mental illness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-401
Number of pages6
JournalNurse Education Today
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Mental health
  • Nurses
  • Nursing role
  • Physical health
  • Survey design
  • Training

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