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J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2004 Aug;11(4):379-85.

Nurses' ethical perceptions about coercion.

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Department of Nursing Science, University of Turku, FIN-20014, Finland.



The purpose of this study was to describe Finnish psychiatric nurses' ethical perceptions about coercive measures in acute psychiatric setting.


The data were collected with a questionnaire developed for this study. The sample included 170 Finnish psychiatric nurses on acute wards in five psychiatric hospitals. The data were analysed using frequency and percentage distributions, mean and standard deviations. The internal consistency of the instrument was explored with Cronbach's alpha. The association between the background variables and the sum score of the items of the questionnaire was tested with Mann-Whitney U-test and Kruskal-Wallis test. The open-ended question was analysed with content analysis.


Some psychiatric nurses perceived coercive measures as ethically problematic. In particular, the implementation of forced medication (18%), four-point restraints (16%) and patient seclusion (11%) were perceived as ethically problematic. Female nurses and nurses who worked on closed wards perceived the measures to be more problematic than male nurses and nurses who did not work on closed wards.


In Finland, special attention has been paid to ethical questions related to the care of psychiatric patients and to the enhancement of patients' rights, yet the majority of the nurses participating in the survey did not perceive coercive measures as ethically problematic. More research on this issue as well as further education of the personnel and more extensive teaching of ethics in nursing schools are needed to support the ability of the psychiatric personnel to identify ethically problematic situations. In addition, it is important to consider new measures for generating genuine moral reflection among the personnel on the usage of coercive measures as well as on their effectiveness and legitimacy in the psychiatric care.

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