Acute mental health nurses as therapists: A survey of the opinions of trainee nurse therapists and their patients in acute mental health provision

Billy Mathers


Background/Objectives: The use of psychosocial interventions has been shown to improve the functioning of individuals with serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Such skills have been taught to mental health nurses in community settings for many years and have been well evaluated but there is a paucity of evidence for their use on acute inpatient wards. This study evaluates two teaching modules convened for qualified mental health nurses who are working in acute adult inpatient wards in several mental health units. The purpose of the modules is to teach trainees psychosocial interventions to equip them to care for patients with severe mental illness. The study’s objectives are to evaluate the effectiveness of the teaching on the modules and also to evaluate the trainees’ success in transferring the interventions which they learned into clinical practice.

Methods: A quasi experimental design was adopted to ascertain whether or not trainees’ perceptions of their practice had changed ‘post module’ and to investigate whether trainees’ patients reported differences in their nursing care after training. A questionnaire was administered to each trainee (experimental group) before and after the modules to elicit their opinion of their ability in caring for patients with severe mental health problems. Their responses ‘pre module’ were then compared to their responses ‘post module’. The effectiveness of the modules was further evaluated by comparing the experimental group’s ‘post module’ responses to those of a group matched for length of service and experience who had not undertaken the modules (reference group). To measure the trainees’ transfer of psychosocial interventions into practice, a questionnaire was administered to the patients for whom they acted as ‘named nurse’ throughout their stay on the ward. Their responses were compared to patients for whom the reference group acted as ‘named nurse’. The scales were tested for reliability using the Cronbach alpha test and statistical significant was assessed using both paired t-test and Wilcoxon’s.

Results: The study found that the modules were effective in teaching trainees psychosocial interventions, but that they found implementation difficult.

Conclusions: The modules were effective in giving trainees more confidence in caring for patients on acute wards. However, ways need to be found to empower trainees to transfer the skills which they have learned in the modules into clinical practice.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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