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Nurse Educ Today. 2004 Aug;24(6):435-42.

Cultures of psychiatry and the professional socialization process: the case of containment methods for disturbed patients.

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St. Bartholomew School of Nursing and Midwifery, City University, Philpot Street, London E1 2EA, UK.


Acute mental disorder necessitating admission to hospital is often accompanied by disturbed behaviour that threatens the health of the person concerned or that of those around them. A range of containment methods are used by psychiatric professionals to keep patients and staff safe. These strategies are strongly emotive and attract strong moral valuations, yet differ sharply between countries. This paper reports a study to investigate the relationship between attitudes to these containment methods, and exposure to psychiatric education and practice. It was hypothesized that the culture of psychiatry in the study country would socialise students' views towards the locally dominant pattern of relative evaluations. Nine cohorts of student psychiatric nurses at different stages of their training at one UK University were asked to complete ratings on 11 containment methods. Containment methods fell into five groups, with mechanical restraint and net beds attracting the most severe disapproval. Neither the relative evaluation of methods, nor the intensity of those evaluations, changed systematically with duration of training. The findings support the interpretation that the relative evaluations of psychiatric containment methods are a property of wider national cultures, rather than an isolated tradition of professional psychiatric practice.

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