The Attitudes Towards the Use of Restraint and Restrictive Intervention Amongst Healthcare Staff on Acute Medical and Frailty Wards—A Brief Literature Review [2019]

Restraint in modern non-psychiatric-based healthcare is often regarded as a rare occurrence. It is deemed to be used as a last resort to prevent patients from directly harming themselves. However, techniques are used in modern day practice which are considered direct and indirect restraints with the justification of maintaining patient safety, but they are often not classified as “restraints”. Examples of these include the use of bed rails or tables to prevent patients from “wandering” and to reduce the risk of falls and injuries. More indirect techniques would involve passive interactions with patients or leaving mobility aids out of reach. Staff subconsciously restrain patients and reduce their liberties despite agreeing that patient autonomy should be upheld—a necessary evil to maintain a duty of care. Whilst the use of restraints is often justified to ensure patient care and prevent injury, it is not without consequence. There are physical and psychological health risks such as pressure sores from the inability to mobilise, or the brewing of anger and frustration when denied access to everyday actions. The reasons why restraints are used, whilst stemming from maintaining patient safety, are often due to low staffing levels and the inability to constantly watch at-risk patients due to a large workload. Inadequate training is another factor; by improving education in direct and indirect restraint and providing alternative methods, more ethical decisions and positive outcomes can be implemented. Healthcare professionals are reluctant to use restraint but often conduct it without realising it; assessing their understanding of restraint and providing education to raise awareness of the consequences of direct and indirect methods would result in positive steps toward reducing their use at the same time as looking to provide alternatives to uphold patient care whilst maintaining their dignity and liberty.

Ramith Gunawardena and David G. Smithard
Geriatrics 2019, 4(3)