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What is a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN)?

Community psychiatric nurses (or CPNs) are professionals who work within the community instead of in inpatient or outpatient clinics at a psychiatric hospital. They are primarily concerned with mental health rather than physical, and their scope of responsibilities is broad and multifaceted.  

They offer crucial mental health support to patients struggling with their psychological wellbeing and serve as an essential contact, often ending up being among the main points of call for a patient as they navigate the complexities of the mental health system.  

For example, given how busy psychiatrists are, patients might be given an appointment with a CPN to tie them over until they’re able to be seen by the former. In this post, we’ll look in more detail at the responsibilities of a CPN, the skills needed to become one, and other questions!

What Do Community Psychiatric Nurses Do?

CPNs have an extensive list of professional responsibilities, including (but not limited to):


CPNs often carry out first assessments which will inform subsequent care pathways. These assessments will examine the patient’s mental wellbeing, lifestyle, social circumstances, background and more.  

These assessments are carried out in a compassionate, non-judgmental manner and are considerate of the fact that people are often highly distressed when they’ve reached the point of needing to get medical help for their mental health.  

Alongside building trust and rapport and evaluating the patient’s presenting mental health symptoms, the CPN will also assess potential risk factors, make note of the patient’s physical health, and begin to create a preliminary care plan so that actionable steps can be taken to improve the patient’s wellbeing, moving forward.

Medical Management

CPNs will often help manage and administer medication, check in to ensure the patient is taking their prescribed medication, and assess how they’re getting on with it, e.g., have there been any adverse reactions or side effects?  

The CPN offers educational support about the medication, teaching the patient how it works, discussing why sticking to the medication schedule is essential (and how deviating from it can make things worse), and exploring options for how the patient might practically manage side effects.

Therapeutic Interventions

Although most CPNs aren’t primary therapy providers like psychiatrists or psychotherapists, they can still provide several helpful therapeutic interventions.  

This can look like offering emotional support and listening to the patient’s issues, providing psychoeducation to both the sufferer and their family (such as coping strategies and symptom management), discussing how certain CBT techniques might be applied, facilitating group therapy and more.  

CPNs take a holistic approach to their interactions with patients in need, monitoring all aspects of their progress (or lack thereof) and documenting how they respond to the prescribed care pathway. This approach looks at the mental side of things and supports emotional and social needs.

Crisis Intervention

In mental health crises, CPNs are often on hand to de-escalate situations whilst simultaneously working with emergency services like the police force and fire services to help the individual(s) at breaking point.

Once a problem has been calmed, the CPN may conduct an assessment and provide the kind of help they routinely offer to other patients.


CPNs are big advocates for their patients, fighting on their behalf so that they get the best and most appropriate care possible. This is particularly important when patients are less able to advocate for themselves.

The CPN will ensure their patients are treated with respect and care and promote their independence wherever they can.


CPNs don’t work in isolation; they work with a wide array of healthcare professionals, including GPs, psychiatrists, and therapists, to make sure their patient receives the most well-rounded and continuous course of care possible.  

We’ve already used the word holistic once in this post and the way CPNs work is precisely that – it considers the individual’s entire journey through the mental health system, and that includes the various other healthcare professionals they work with, too.  

Through a collaborative approach, CPNs can guarantee (or as close as possible, at least) that patients are getting every aspect of care that they need and that no one part of their mental health recovery falls through the cracks.  

Where Do Community Psychiatric Nurses Work?

Community Psychiatric Nurses have a unique role in that they bring their expertise directly to where it’s most needed. They work in various community settings, ranging from patients’ homes, providing in-home care and support, to community health centres where they offer outpatient services.  

CPNs may also be found in educational settings like schools, colleges and universities, helping young people navigate the ever-growing number of mental health challenges they face. Additionally, some CPNs work collaboratively with social services and the criminal justice system, providing care and support to individuals within these settings.  

Their flexibility allows them to meet patients in comfortable, familiar surroundings, which can be instrumental in effective mental health care; psychiatric facilities can often be sterile feeling in character, and many people find them uncomfortable to visit. By contrast, the haven that is home is a much nicer alternative for many people.

Which Populations Do CPNs Help?

Community Psychiatric Nurses support a broad range of individuals across the lifespan. They work with children and adolescents, often in collaboration with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), assisting with early intervention for mental health issues.  

Tragically, the prevalence of mental health problems in younger people is growing, thanks to a combination of factors, including both the pandemic and social media pressures.  

Adults dealing with stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders also benefit from their expertise. Additionally, CPNs play a significant role in supporting older adults, particularly those who may be experiencing age-related mental health issues like dementia.  

Their work is not limited to any specific demographic, making them a vital resource for communities with diverse mental health needs.

How Do You Become a CPN? Training and Qualifications 

To become a community psychiatric nurse, you need to do the following:

Complete an Undergraduate Degree in Nursing

The first step is getting a BSc degree in nursing, preferably mental health nursing, and doing so from an NMC-approved education provider.

Alternatively, you can study for a degree apprenticeship if you want to combine both academic studies and on-the-job training. Then, upon completing your studies, it’s time to get in touch with the NMC. 

Register With the NMC

To legally practise nursing in the UK, you must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

To be registered with the NMC, you must have completed a training programme approved by the body (hence why choosing an approved provider from the outset is important).

Get Experience!

Most CPN roles will require some level of experience. Getting a job as a community psychiatric nurse right off the bat might be challenging after qualifying and registering with the NMC.

Try to get some relevant mental health nursing experience, and if that work has a community element to it? Even better.

Apply for CPN Roles

Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, you can start applying for community psychiatrist nursing roles. The more relevant experience you can demonstrate having worked as a mental health nurse, the better.  

Consider additional CPD and training to make your CV stand out further. Take the time to format your CV nicely. It’s remarkable what a difference a well-formatted CV can make in helping secure a position.

What Skills are Needed to Be a CPN?

Like all nursing roles, a combination of hard and soft skills is essential to excel as a CPN. This includes strong clinical skills in mental health assessment and management, an in-depth understanding of psychiatric medications and their side effects, and the ability to perform therapeutic interventions.  

Soft skills are equally important; these include excellent communication and interpersonal skills, empathy, resilience and the ability to build trust and rapport with patients.  

CPNs must also be adaptable, capable of working independently, and have good problem-solving skills. Being culturally sensitive and aware of different community dynamics is crucial in effectively supporting diverse patient populations.  

What are the Challenges and Rewards of Being a CPN?

Like every nursing role, being a community psychiatric nurse brings its own challenges and rewards.  

The challenges include:

Emotional and Mental Demand

The nature of mental health work can be emotionally taxing, to say the least. CPNs often deal with patients in distress, crisis or facing severe mental health issues. Understandably, this can lead to emotional strain and burnout if not appropriately managed.

Non-Compliance and Complex Cases

CPNs often meet patients who are non-compliant with their treatment plans, medication or even with the notion that nothing is actually wrong.

Managing complex cases, especially where patients are resistant to treatment or have co-occurring disorders, can present a significant challenge.

Navigating Systemic Limitations

CPNs often face challenges related to the broader healthcare system. These include limited resources, bureaucratic hurdles and coordinating care across different services. This can make it challenging to provide the level of care they deem necessary for their patients.  

However, CPNs are determined individuals, and more often than not their liaison and advocacy skills ensure that the best level of care is achieved.

The rewards include:

Making a Tangible Difference

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a CPN is seeing the positive impact you can have on patients’ lives. Seeing the difference you can make in this profession is truly a beautiful, heart-warming thing.  

This can range from helping someone manage their condition effectively, to witnessing substantial improvements in their mental health and overall wellbeing.  

Imagine witnessing someone go from being housebound with agoraphobia to having a thriving personal and professional life outside of the house. Are there many other vocations that are that gratifying? It’s hard to think of many.

Building Meaningful Relationships

CPNs often develop rock-solid, therapeutic relationships with their patients. These relationships are built on mutual trust and understanding, and being a consistent, supportive presence in someone’s mental health journey can be incredibly rewarding.

Professional Growth and Learning

Working as a CPN offers continuous opportunities for learning and professional development.

CPNs are constantly expanding their knowledge and skills, adapting to new treatments and approaches in mental health care, which can be highly rewarding for both personal and professional growth alike.

What Band is a Community Psychiatric Nurse?

The average salary for a community psychiatric nurse is contingent on experience and location, and CPNs can fall into one of several NHS bands. Community psychiatric nurses can start in Band 5 and progress to more management-based positions in Band 7.  

According to NHS Employers, band 5 pay starts at £28,407 and goes up to £30,639. Band 6 begins at £35,392 with an uppermost bracket of £37,350, and band 7 starts at £43,742 and increases to £45,996. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are there Different Types of CPN?

Yes, there are different types of CPN. These include adult CPNs, CAMHS CPNs, CPNs specialising in substance misuse work, CPNs focusing on working with dementia patients, and more. They are still called CPNs even when they focus on one particular area.

Are CPNs and RMNs the Same?

CPNs are a type of RMN, which is to say that – whilst all CPNs are RMNs, not all RMNs are CPNs.

Registered mental health nurses (RMNs) can go down several routes once they qualify, one of which is community psychiatric nursing. RMNs can also work in primary and acute settings like hospitals, rather than specialising in community-based care.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it, our comprehensive guide on community psychiatric nurses. If you’d like to find out more about the CPN roles we have on offer, then get in touch – we’d love to hear from you! 

Carry on reading