Forensic mental health: Perceptions of transition and workforce experiences of nurses

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Background: With the growing need for nurses in forensic mental health settings, understanding the experiences of transition and perceptions of the setting is important to support staff retention. Aim: To explore registered nurses’ experiences of working in a forensic mental health setting. In particular, to understand their transition experience, perceptions of the practice environment and intention to stay within the setting. Methods: Registered nurses employed in a high-secure forensic mental health hospital in New South Wales, Australia, completed an online survey including the Revised Professional Practice Environment Scale and Nurse Retention Index. Findings: Sixty-nine participants responded to the survey. During the first year of their employment, participants reported feeling isolated, lacking support and being anxious when providing patient care. In terms of the environment, participants perceived ‘internal work motivation’ as positive in the environment when compared to ‘handling disagreement and conflict’. While many intended to continue their nursing careers for the foreseeable future, 45.3% of participants were undecided about whether they would leave the forensic setting. Discussion: Due to the complexity of forensic mental health practice, the reporting of poor experiences of transition and issues regarding support and conflict is concerning. Considering the importance of workplace culture and teamwork in forensic mental health, strategies to enhance positive interpersonal relationships is essential. Conclusion: Given the predicted future workforce shortages, this study highlights a need for appropriate supports for nurses’ transitioning into forensic mental health employment to enhance workplace satisfaction and retention.

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