Why do nurses seek employment in forensic mental health and what are their first impressions of the clinical environment? A mixed methods study

Publication Name

Journal of Advanced Nursing


Aim: The aim of the study was to investigate why registered nurses seek forensic mental health employment and explore their initial impressions of this setting. Design: Explanatory sequential mixed methods. Methods: Registered nurses employed in a forensic mental health hospital completed an online survey about their reasons for seeking work in forensic mental health and their transition into the setting. To fully explore findings, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sub-group of survey respondents. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse survey data, and thematic analysis was used to analyse the interviews. Results: Sixty-nine respondents completed the survey, and 11 interviews were conducted. Prior interest in forensic mental health and encouragement from hospital staff were considered important influences in seeking forensic mental health employment. New knowledge, changes in clinical responsibility, exposure to patients' background offences and security processes overwhelmed some participants initially. However, participants reported that the initial challenges of their transition revealed opportunities to develop genuine connections with patients. Conclusion: This study provides a new understanding of the reasons why nurses seek employment in forensic mental health and the challenges and opportunities experienced when first working in this setting. Such professional and personal elements need to be considered by organizations to strengthen recruitment strategies and support future nurses' transition into forensic mental health settings. Impact: This study provides new knowledge about recruiting and supporting nurses' transition into forensic mental health employment. As such, it informs policymakers, clinical services and managers about strategies needed to attract and retain this workforce. Patient or Public contribution: No public or patient involvement.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access



Link to publisher version (DOI)