Professional nurses' perception of nursing mentally ill people in a general hospital setting

T R Mavundla
Journal of Advanced Nursing 2000, 32 (6): 1569-78
The aim of this study was to explore professional nurses' perception of nursing mentally ill patients in a tertiary hospital in Durban. An explorative, qualitative, descriptive and contextual design was followed as the basis for conducting the study. The above-mentioned research design was achieved through field work conducted in an urban-based general hospital. A sample of 12 professional nurses was selected from a population of 800 professional nurses employed in this setting using a purposive sampling technique. This sample size was determined by saturation of data as reflected in repeating themes. Both individual phenomenological semistructured interviews and field notes in the form of observations were used as methods of data collection. The field work was conducted without any preset theoretical framework of reference by using bracketing and intuiting. During interviews, participants were asked only one research question, namely: 'How do you perceive nursing mentally ill patients in your unit or ward?' Communication skills were employed to encourage participants to verbalize their perception of nursing mentally ill patients in a general hospital setting. A tape recorder was used to collect data and the data was transcribed verbatim. Data collected was analysed following the descriptive method of Giorgi (1986). Coding was carried out by the researcher and an independent expert who is a psychiatric nursing specialist and a qualitative research expert. After data analysis, the results were reflected within universal categories of the Nursing for the Whole Person Theory in order to give them structure. The four themes that emerged from the findings are: perception of self, perception of a patient, perception of feelings that hinder nursing the mentally ill, and perception of the environment. The measures for ensuring trustworthiness proposed by Guba (Lincoln Y.S. & Guba E.G. (1985) Naturalistic Inquiry. Sage, Beverly Hills) were used as the basis for ensuring reliable and valid findings. The perception of nursing mentally ill people within a general hospital setting was negative and affected the intellectual and the affective component of the nurses' psychological functioning within their internal environment. It was recommended that nurses' knowledge and skills should be increased and that they should be given emotional support in terms of counselling.

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