Influence of nursing staff attitudes and characteristics on the use of coercive measures in acute mental health services—A systematic review [2019]

What is known on the subject?

  • Aggressive behaviour is a major problem in clinical practice of mental health care and can result in the use of coercive measures.
  • Coercive measures are dangerous for psychiatric patients and international mental healthcare works on the elimination of these interventions.
  • There is no previous review that summarizes the attitude of nursing staff towards coercive measures and the influence of nursing staff characteristics on attitude towards and the use of coercive measures.

What the paper adds to existing knowledge?

  • The attitude of nurses shifted from a therapeutic paradigm (coercive measures have positive effects on patients) to a safety paradigm (coercive measures are undesirable, but necessary for the wards’ safety).
  • Nurses express the need for less coercive interventions to prevent seclusion and restraint, but their perception of intrusiveness is influenced by how often they use specific coercive measures.
  • The knowledge from scientific literature on the influence of nursing staff on coercive measures is highly inconclusive, although the feeling of safety of nurses might prove to be promising for further research.

What are the implications for practice?

  • There is need for increased attention specifically for the feeling of safety of nurses, to better equip nurses for their difficult work on acute mental health wards.


4.1 Introduction

The use of coercive measures generally has negative effects on patients. To help prevent its use, professionals need insight into what nurses believe about coercion and which staff determinants may influence its application. There is need for an integrated review on both attitude and influence of nurses on the use of coercion.

4.2 Aim

To summarize literature concerning attitude of nurses towards coercive measures and the influence of staff characteristics on the use of coercive measures.

4.3 Method

Systematic review.

4.4 Results

The attitude of nurses changed during the last two decades from a therapeutic to a safety paradigm. Nurses currently view coercive measures as undesirable, but necessary to deal with aggression. Nurses express the need for less intrusive interventions, although familiarity probably influences its perceived intrusiveness. Literature on the relation between staff characteristics and coercive measures is inconclusive.

4.5 Discussion

Nurses perceive coercive measures as unwanted but still necessary to maintain safety on psychiatric wards. Focussing on the determinants of perception of safety might be a promising direction for future research.

4.6 Implications for practice

Mental health care could improve the focus on the constructs of perceived safety and familiarity with alternative interventions to protect patients from unnecessary use of coercive interventions.

Paul Doedens, Jentien Vermeulen, Lindy‐Lou Boyette, Corine Latour, Lieuwe de Haan
Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 26 December 2019