Ireland has experienced a decline in recruitment to preregistration psychiatric nursing programmes (An Bord Altranais 1999). Social care workers often do similar psychosocial work with similar client groups served by psychiatric nurses. In marked contrast to psychiatric nursing, Irish social care diplomate and degree programmes are generally over subscribed. Yet graduates working in social care often experience inferiority in terms of pay, conditions and career structure compared to their psychiatric nursing counterparts (McElwee 1998). The question that therefore needs to be asked is why school leavers opt for such courses in preference to psychiatric nursing. This article describes the results of a pilot study, utilizing a focus group approach, to examine reasons for course and career choice among school leavers, psychiatric nursing students and social care students. Results indicate that school students rely on stereotypical views as part of their decisionmaking process in shaping occupational decisions. School students tend to conceptualize psychiatric nursing as being a job involving menial and physical tasks. Social care students saw psychiatric nursing as lacking autonomy and to be institutional in nature. Psychiatric nursing students themselves felt exploited and 'second class' compared to general nurses. Current recruitment campaigns and careers guidance within schools need to be more targeted on differentiating psychiatric nursing from its general nursing counterpart.
- Careers guidance