Mental health nurses impacted by verbal aggression

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Verbally aggressive patients make mental health nurses more likely to back the use of physical interventions, says new University research.

Exposure to such abuse also leads to higher levels of anger – even when compared to nurses who had witnessed physical aggression or self-harm.

The study, funded by the University of Northampton and St Andrew’s Healthcare, found that targeted, personal, verbal aggression affected nurses’ decision making when it came to restraint or seclusion interventions.

This endorsement did not translate into an increased use of coercive techniques, however.

The results are significant as management of emotional responses is an area that doesn’t currently receive much attention during mental health nurse training.

Professor Geoff Dickens, who supervised the study said: “Training provision largely focuses on managing physical aggression through techniques such as de-escalation.

“Whilst this is great, more attention should be paid to how nurses regulate their own physical responses to this behaviour.

“It is common to hear that nurses ‘should just deal with it’, but it is unreasonable to believe that nurses are immune and can do this without help or support.”

Published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, the study was carried out at three secure mental health facilities in the UK.

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