Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health


The current study seeks to answer the question, ‘What is the content and process of a comprehensive mental health nursing assessment?’ Mental health nurses are required to undertake comprehensive mental health nursing assessments as part of their routine clinical practice. The current study was prompted by the author’s experience of implementing standard clinical documentation and measures of health status to the clinical practice of mental health nurses and the reaction of nurse’s to this implementation.

In a series of six articles the question is answered, the implications of the findings explored and a potential solution for the issues identified offered.

The first article is a literature review which failed to identify one study addressing the content and process of a comprehensive mental health nursing assessment. Therefore, in order to find out more about this topic, a qualitative study was undertaken. A qualitative approach is the best method for learning about a subject area where little is known. Eighteen interviews were undertaken with mental health nurses asking them to describe the content and process of a comprehensive mental health nursing assessment. These interviews were thematically analysed using a constant comparative method informed by grounded theory.

The results of this qualitative study are reported in articles two, three and four. Article two describes how the content of what constituted a comprehensive assessment varied from nurse to nurse. Article three describes the process of a comprehensive assessment which involves engaging with the consumer to enable problem identification, while article four identifies that no nurse in this study used a formal model to guide their mental health nursing assessment practice and explores the implications of this finding for mental health nursing.

The findings from this qualitative study are then explored in two additional articles. Article five explores the implications of problem identification in relation to the delivery of recovery orientated mental health nursing practice, while article six describes how standard measures of mental health status can be used to support consistency in assessment and recovery orientated nursing practice. This collection of six articles highlights the need for further research into mental health nursing assessment.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.