The University of Newcastle, Australia
Available in 2020

Course handbook


Mental Health Nursing offers a valuable contribution to the care of older people. The complex interaction of physical, psychological, cognitive, behavioural and social stressors, resources and strengths can affect the older person's function, health, mental state and quality of life. Fifteen to twenty percent of older people have significant mental health problems. The psychiatric disorders experienced by the elderly are often overlooked, misdiagnosed or mistreated, leading to high co-morbidity and increasing health care costs, but perhaps most importantly leads to unnecessary suffering and compromised ability to lead life to the fullest.

This unique course encompasses knowledge and skills from the disciplines of mental health and aged care nursing, psychiatry, psychology, geriatric medicine and pharmacology. Major diagnostic syndromes, complex clinical assessment and mental health nursing interventions are emphasised as well as an understanding of the psychosocial effects of ageing on mental health.

Availability2020 Course Timetables


  • Trimester 3 - 2020

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Identify the developmental, psychological and psychosocial factors influencing the behaviour of an older person experiencing mental health problems

2. Develop a personal model of successful ageing

3. Explain the potential changing roles of a person as they reach old age and potential associated life problems

4. Demonstrate skills in comprehensive assessment of the older person within their systems

5. Recogise the physical and physiological factors affecting the assessment, treatment, care and management of the older person with mental health problems

6. Identify common psychiatric presentations in the older person

7. Discuss how co-morbidities, atypical presentations and age related changes affect diagnosis, treatment and management of the older person with mental health problems

8. Describe the phenomenology, aetiology, demographics, treatment, and prognosis of psychiatric disorders of old age: mood disorders and psychotic disorders.

9. Demonstrate related knowledge in the care of the older person who exhibits behavioural symptoms: aggression, disorientation, confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, withdrawal, neglect and disinhibition.

10. Develop models of nursing intervention based on problem solving, communication, therapies, environment change and somatic treatments

11. Describe the indication, clinical use, effectiveness, adverse effects, potential interactions and nursing implications of the use of common psychoactive medications for the older person


Introduction to Mental Health Nursing of Older People

  • Models of Mental Health in Late Life
  • Mental Health Nursing Assessment
  • Psychiatric Syndromes

Behaviour Changes

  • Acute confusion: delirium
  • Chronic confusion: dementia

Psychiatric Disorders and Psychopharmacology

  • Affective disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Psychopharmacology

Assumed knowledge

Foundations of nursing and or midwifery knowledge, nursing and or midwifery theory, legal and ethical issues, fundamentals of research, human bioscience, psychology, sociology related to practice. Academic reading and writing skills, ability to access and evaluate information from a variety of sources, skills in critical analysis, critical judgement, synthesis and evaluation. Ability to conceptualise practice. Demonstrated Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council competencies

Assessment items

Online Learning Activity: Introductory Blog

Online Learning Activity: Case Study Blog 1

Online Learning Activity: Case Study Blog 2

Online Learning Activity: Case Study Blog 3

Online Learning Activity: Case Study Blog 4

Contact hours


Self-Directed Learning

Self-Directed 140 hour(s) per Term Full Term