Publication Details

Cutler, N., Sim, J., Halcomb, E., Moxham, L. & Stephens, M. (2020). Nurses’ influence on consumers’ experience of safety in acute mental health units: a qualitative study. Journal of Clinical Nursing, online first 1-8.


Aims and objectives To explore how nurses influence the perceptions and experience of safety among consumers who have been admitted to an acute mental health unit. Background Safety is a priority in acute mental health inpatient units, yet consumers do not always experience acute units as safe. Despite being primary stakeholders, little is known about what safety means for consumers in acute mental health units. Design A qualitative descriptive study informed by naturalistic enquiry was conducted and is reported using the COREQ checklist. Methods Fifteen consumers with experience of mental illness participated in semi‐structured individual interviews. These interviews explored what safety meant for them during their acute mental health unit admissions. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Findings: The theme Influence of Nurses reflected that the way nurses engaged in acute mental health units had a profound impact on participants’ sense of safety. Three sub‐themes emerged: i) Availability: “It’s about nurses spending time with you” ii) Being responsive: “They would listen if you had a concern” iii) Caring: “Little acts of kindness”. Conclusions These findings challenge the dominant discourse around safety in mental health organisations, in which nursing practice is often oriented toward the management of risk, rather than the promotion of safety. The findings demonstrate that, through their clinical practice, nurses can enhance consumers’ feelings of safety in the acute mental health unit. Relevance to clinical practice: Nurses play a key role in providing care within acute mental health units. It is vital that the behaviours and actions nurses can enact in order to promote feelings of safety among consumers in this setting are enabled at individual, unit and organisational levels.



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