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J Neurosci Nurs. 2005 Apr;37(2):117-21.

What cues do nurses use to predict aggression in people with acquired brain injury?

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Rehabilitation Nursing Research & Development Unit, Royal Rehabilitation Centre Sydney, PO Box 6, Ryde, NSW 1680, Australia.


There is a paucity of research on the frequent and repeated episodes of aggression and violence experienced by nurses when working with people who have an acquired brain injury. The purpose of this study was to bring this issue into focus by identifying the cues nurses use to predict aggression in people with acquired brain injury. Twenty-eight nurses from 10 different inpatient brain injury rehabilitation units in Australia participated in the study. Participants were interviewed using the Critical Decision Method on a one to one basis for up to one and one half hours on two consecutive days. Transcripts of the interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. Results revealed that nurses identified five groups of cues that predict aggression in a patient: (1) what a patient is saying; (2) changes in a patient's voice; (3) changes in a patient's face; (4) changes in a patient's behavior; and (5) a patient's emotions. Nurses reported using multiple cues to predict aggression and highlighted the importance of personal knowledge of the patient in conjunction with identified cues when predicting aggression. Nurses caring for patients with acquired brain injury can predict many episodes of aggression, though not all, by identifying cues from the patient.

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