Women’s secure hospitals are often considered to be stressful and demanding places to work, with these environments characterized as challenging and violent. However, the staff experience of working in this environment is not well represented in the literature. The present study is the first to examine the ‘lived experience’ of seven nurses working in the National High Secure Healthcare Service for Women. Interview transcripts were analysed with the use of interpretative phenomenological analysis, and the findings presented within four superordinate themes ‘horror’, ‘balancing acts’, ‘emotional hard labour’, and ‘the ward as a community’. These themes all depict the challenges that participants experience in their work, the ways in which they cope with these challenges, and how they make sense of these experiences. A meta-theme of ‘making sense by understanding why’ is also presented, which represents the importance for participants to attempt to make sense of the tensions and challenges by formulating a fuller meaning. The findings suggest the importance of workforce development in terms of allowing sufficient protected time for reflection and formulation (e.g. within the format of group supervision or reflective practice), and for staff-support mechanisms (e.g. clinical supervision, counselling, debriefs) to be inbuilt into the ethos of a service, so as to provide proactive support for staff ‘on the frontline’.
Rachel Beryl DForenPsy, BSc, Jason Davies DClinPsy, MSc, Birgit Völlm MD, PhD
International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 16 December 2016