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J Adv Nurs. 2001 Apr;34(1):107-16.

Nurses' behavioural intentions towards self-poisoning patients: a theory of reasoned action, comparison of attitudes and subjective norms as predictive variables.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, UK. andy.mckinlay@ed.ac.uk



The incidence of self-poisoning is on the increase. Most patients who self-poison are dealt with initially in the general hospital. Therefore, the type and quality of care self-poisoning patients receive will depend, in part, on how they are viewed by nursing staff within the general hospital setting. A knowledge and understanding of the attitudes held by nurses towards self-poisoning patients is therefore important to those involved in the planning and delivery of care towards this client group. Previous studies have examined health care professionals' attitudes towards people who self-poison. Usually, however, these have not focused specifically on nurses' attitudes, and they have ignored the relationship between the attitudes expressed by staff and their intentions to engage in subsequent caring behaviour of one sort or another. It is hence unclear how the findings of such studies are relevant or applicable to nursing policy and practice.


The present study aims to address these limitations using a methodology informed by the theory of reasoned action. The study aims to separate out the distinctive roles played by nurses' own attitudes, and the social pressures represented by other people's attitudes, in determining the types of caring behaviour in which nurses intend to engage when dealing with self-poisoning patients.


The study adopts a questionnaire-based approach incorporating two specially designed vignettes.


The results show that nurses' own attitudes, and what they believe about the attitudes of others, predict their behavioural intentions towards self-poisoning patients. The study also shows that nurses with a more positive orientation towards self-poisoning patients differ in behavioural and normative beliefs from nurses who have a less positive orientation.


The implications for future attempts to explore the relationship between nurses' attitudes and subsequent caring behaviour are considered, along with implications for nursing policy and practice.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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