Nursing staff knowledge and attitudes towards deliberate self-harm in adults and adolescents in an inpatient setting

Malcolm Wheatley, Hannah Austin-Payne
Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy 2009, 37 (3): 293-309

BACKGROUND: This paper investigates the relationship between care staff perceptions' of self-harm behaviours presented by adult and adolescent inpatients and the emotional responses and helping behaviours of the staff.

METHOD: Seventy-six nursing staff participated, including qualified and unqualified staff, who worked in either adolescent or adult secure inpatient settings within a single organization. Participants completed vignette, knowledge, and attitudes questionnaires, related to working with patients who display deliberate self-harm.

RESULTS: Further support was found for attributional theories suggesting that views on deliberate self-harm are linked to propensity to help, and that emotional responses can be a mediating factor. Staff who reported feeling more negative about patients who self-harm reported more worry about working with this patient group. Unqualified nursing staff reported more negativity and worry than qualified staff. Neither gender nor length of work experience was found to be significant factors.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that training and support should be aimed at helping nursing staff, particularly unqualified staff working in inpatient settings where self-harm is frequent, feel more positive and less concerned about working with patients who self-harm. Such needs of unqualified nursing staff have not been highlighted in previous research.

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