UCC Postgraduate courses

Nursing - Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice

Course Fact File
Duration2 Years - PG Diploma (Year 1); Masters (Year 2)
Teaching ModeFull-time. See Additional Teaching Mode Information for more info.
QualificationsPG Dip / MSc
NFQ LevelLevel 9
Closing DateOpen until all places have been filled or no later than 7 June 2024. Early application is advised.
Non-EU Closing DateOpen until all places have been filled or no later than 7 June 2024. Early application is advised.
Start Date2 September 2024

Course Outline

This Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice Diploma/Masters programme is offered by the School of Nursing and Midwifery at University College Cork.

We invite and challenge Mental Health nurses to think critically and creatively about how they, and their organisations work with people who are experiencing mental health difficulties. This programme places a strong emphasis on how Mental Health nurses can most effectively translate knowledge and skills into practice

The Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice programme is organised within the parameters of the five roles of the clinical nurse specialist and is underpinned by the principles and values of recovery. The modules in this course focus on developing proficiency in research, ethics, the application of advanced assessment skills, a range of psycho-social interventions, and the principles of leadership, management and practice development.

We deliver this programme using an innovative blended learning model which includes online and face-to-face teaching and learning. This will facilitate mental health nurses in engaging with lifelong personal and professional development through flexible modes of learning.

Programme Details

The MSc in Nursing programme, comprising seven clinical pathways, is structured into two parts and will typically be completed over two years from the date of first registration for the programme (60 credits in Part I and 30 credits in Part II).

All students will be registered for a Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice in Year 1 (60 credits) and will be registered for a MSc in Year 2 (30 credits). Students who opt to exit at the end of the first year will be awarded a Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice upon successful completion and passing modules to the value of 60 credits (applicable to all pathways).

Programme Pathways

There are 7 clinical pathways to the degree of Masters in Nursing, all of which have an exit route available for the award of a postgraduate Diploma in Nursing.  Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice is Pathway 5 and comprises theory modules and clinical practice modules as follows:

Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice (Pathway 5)

Year 1 (60 credits)

Theory modules

  • NU6005  Evidence-Based Practice for Healthcare Professionals (10 credits)
  • NU6053 Professional, Ethical, and Legal Decision-making in Specialist Practice (5 credits)
  • NU6080 Leadership, Management & Practice Development in Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice (10 credits)
  • NU6172 Therapeutic Engagement, Advanced Assessment Skills & Clinical Decision Making in Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice (15 credits)
  • NU6173 Psychosocial and Recovery-focused Interventions in Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice (10 credits)

Clinical Practice/Practicum modules

  • NU6148  Clinical Practice in Specialist Mental Health Nursing I (5 credits)
  • NU6149   Clinical Practice in Specialist Mental Health Nursing II (5 credits)

Year 2 (30 credits)

  • MH6014  Advanced Research Methods for Healthcare Professionals (10 credits)
  • NU6073    Dissertation in Nursing (20 credits)     

On successful completion of this programme, Specialist Mental Health Nursing students should be able to achieve a number of learning outcomes including the following:

  • Understand and critically evaluate the theories, concepts, and principles underpinning specialist mental health nursing practice in order to actively contribute to the development of person-centred, co-produced and recovery-oriented services through critical reflection, innovation, and leadership;
  • Critically appraise, evaluate, and apply current research and best practice evidence when working with people experiencing mental health problems;
  • Identify and critically evaluate ethical issues and work with service users, family, friends, carers, supporters and other health care professionals;
  • Challenge and question values, beliefs, and policies underpinning mental health care at the individual, team, and organisational level;
  • Develop knowledge of and skills in implementing and managing change, leadership, research, audit, quality care and inter-agency working, in order to initiate nursing-related practice developments, which will lead to the provision of high-quality care for people experiencing distress;
  • Develop specialist clinical competence and practice, using a recovery approach, to ensure that the assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation of person-centred care and clinical decision-making is based on best practice and evidence and supported through clinical supervision and practice development;
  • Act as a means of professional support, educator, and role model for the facilitation of lifelong learning to ensure ongoing professional development in self and others.

Additional Teaching Mode Information

All students will be registered full-time for a Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice in Year 1. If a student wishes to progress to the Masters they will be registered for Year 2 (part-time).

All postgraduate programmes contain some element of blended learning. This means that modules are delivered on campus with face-to-face contact with lectures (teaching and learning strategies include lectures, workshops, seminars and tutorials) in combination with some online content delivery using our virtual learning environment Canvas (teaching and learning strategies include module study guides, discussion boards, audio/visual resources, and online assessments/activities).    

Prior to commencing the course each student taking a blended module will be provided with an orientation to Canvas and training on how to use the online technology within the course. IT support will be given to students throughout the duration of the course.  


Methods of assessment are varied, including presentations, case studies, reflective assignments, and assessment of competencies at the clinical nurse specialist level. There are no written examinations.

Academic Programme Catalogue

See the Academic Programme Catalogue where you can search for the complete and up-to-date content for this course. Note that the modules for all courses are subject to change from year to year. For complete descriptions of individual modules, see the Book of Modules.

Why Choose This Course

This Diploma/Masters programme offers qualified psychiatric nurses the opportunity to engage with their practice in the context of many challenges faced in the areas of changes in mental service delivery (moving to a recovery-oriented service), reduced resources, complex ethical considerations, and the ongoing debate about the nature of human distress and responses to it. The course is taught and facilitated by experienced practitioners, by people with self-experience, and by carers/family members.

Our staff from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at University College Cork include:

Top 50 Nursing School in the World

The School of Nursing and Midwifery, University College Cork, has been ranked within the top 50 nursing schools in the world, according to the QS global subject rankings. The school provides a world-class environment for cutting-edge research to prepare tomorrow’s nurses to shape and advance health care practices through research and education. Within UCC’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, researchers are addressing global challenges, including the growing burden of diseases, nurse workforce requirements, population ageing, and sustainable approaches to healthcare and health promotion and our teaching staff are at the forefront of these developments.

Skills and Careers Information

This course will give registered psychiatric nurses the knowledge and skills to work within the scope of practice of a clinical nurse specialist in all mental health service settings.


There are 7 clinical pathways to the degree of Masters in Nursing, all of which have an exit route available for the award of a Postgraduate Diploma in Nursing. The pathways to the degree of Masters including the Diploma exit route are available to view in the College Calendar (Diploma/Masters in Nursing).

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:  Pathway 5 - Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice

Applicants for this MSc in Nursing, including the Postgraduate Diploma exit route, should normally:

  1. Hold active registration on a division of the professional register maintained by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland or be eligible for such registration as required for individual pathways. For the Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice Pathway, applicants must be Registered Psychiatric Nurses;
  2. Have clinical practice experience (and support structures, if applicable) as required for individual pathways. For the Specialist Mental Health Nursing Practice Pathway, applicants must have a minimum of six months of post-registration experience (excluding courses) and at least six months experience in the speciality pathway applied for;
  3. Applicants must provide written evidence of support from their Director of Nursing/equivalent authorised Nurse Manager stating:

(a) The applicant will be working in the relevant specialist area for the duration of the programme for a minimum of 18.75 hours a week 
(b) They will be released from practice to attend the programme requirements 
(c) A Clinical Preceptor and/or Clinical Facilitator can support learning in the specialist area of practice for the duration of the programme.

Note: In exceptional circumstances, applicants who do not fulfill the entry requirements may be recommended for entry to the programme under Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) following a review of their individual qualifications and experience by the programme committee. Such applicants may be invited for interview to satisfy the selection committee of their suitability for the programme. Admission of such applicants will be subject to the approval of the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

For Applicants with Qualifications Completed Outside of Ireland

Applicants must meet the required entry academic grade, equivalent to Irish requirements. For more information see our Qualification Comparison page.

International/Non-EU Applicants

For full details of the non-EU application procedure visit our how to apply pages for international students.

  • In UCC, we use the term programme and course interchangeably to describe what a person has registered to study in UCC and its constituent colleges, schools, and departments.
  • Note that not all courses are open to international/non-EU applicants, please check the fact file above. For more information contact the International Office.
English Language Requirements

Applicants who are non-native speakers of the English language must meet the university-approved English language requirements. Vsit our PG English Language Requirements page for more information.

Fees and Costs

Postgraduate EU and International Fees 2024/2025

See our Postgraduate EU and Non-EU (International) Fee Schedule for the latest information.


If your course requires a deposit, that figure will be deducted from your second-semester fee payment in January.

Fee payment 

Fees are payable in two equal instalments. First payment is at registration and the balance usually by the end of January.

How can I pay? 

See different options on our How Do I Pay My Fees? page.

Any questions? See the 'Contact Us' section on the Fees Office page.

How To Apply

1. Check dates

Check the opening and closing dates for the application process in the fact file boxes at the top of the page.

2. Gather documents

Scanned copies of supporting documents have to be uploaded to the UCC online application portal and include:

  • Original qualification documents listed on your application including transcripts of results from institutions other than UCC.
  • Any supplementary items requested for your course if required.

3. Apply online

Apply online via the UCC online application portal. Note the majority of our courses have a non-refundable €50 application fee.

Any questions? Use our web enquiry form to contact us.

Deferrals: Deferrals are not permitted on this course.

Additional Requirements (All Applicants)

Please note you will be required to provide additional information as part of the online application process for this programme. This will include the following questions:

  • You may enter the details of professional or voluntary positions held. We strongly encourage you to complete this section with all relevant work experiences that will support your application.
  • In addition to your previously declared qualifications, please outline any additional academic courses, self-learning and professional training relevant to this programme.
  • Please describe your motivation and readiness for this programme.
  • Please upload certification of current registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI).
  • Please upload evidence of Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification.
  • All applicants must also submit a signed Declaration Form to be completed by the Director of Nursing/Midwifery/Equivalent Authorised Manager. This form is downloadable here: 2023 Declaration Form PGDip Nursing pathways

Additional Information

For students who have exited this programme with the award of postgraduate diploma and wish to return to complete the Masters within 5 years, please apply for CKX13, MSc in Nursing Studies Direct Entry Year 2.

The closing date for non-EU applications is Open until all places have been filled or no later than 7 June 2024. Early application is advised.

Apply Now

For queries regarding course content or timetables please contact