Background: The Emergency Department (ED) is an integral link to both mental health inpatient and community services and people experiencing mental health crisis often access mental healthcare through EDs. As such EDs have a significant role in enabling optimal transition of mental health consumers between services. The notion of recovery as it is understood by people who experience mental illness, and the delivery of recovery oriented mental healthcare services, are now embedded in mental health service provision in Australia and documented in policy. However, disparity exists in the meaning of recovery with the term meaning different things depending on the lens through which the concept is viewed. This research aimed to understand how Registered Nurses (RNs) working in the ED conceptualise recovery for people experiencing mental illness. Methods: Using a phenomenographic approach, individual semi structured interviews were undertaken with 14 RNs working in Australian EDs. A seven stage cycle of data analysis resulted in the identification of six categories of description. Results: The categories were - recovery not occurring; seeking help from the ED; getting through the acute mental health crisis; referral to other areas of mental healthcare; implementing strategies for ongoing care, and living in the community. Conclusions: Findings conclude that ED RNs have limited cognisance of the meaning of recovery as it is understood by people with lived experience of mental illness. Their conceptualisation of recovery for mental health consumers predominantly remains bound to the dominant medical notion of recovery.