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J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2006 Apr;13(2):165-72.

Preliminary outcomes of a trial to reduce conflict and containment on acute psychiatric wards: City Nurses.

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Psychiatric Nursing, City University, London, UK.


Acute psychiatric wards experience high levels of conflict behaviours (violence, absconding, self-harm, rule breaking and medication refusal) by patients. These events cause stress and injury to staff and patients. Their management through containment methods (e.g. sedation, restraint, seclusion) is contentious, and nurses are ambivalent about their use. The aim of this study was to reduce conflict and containment on two acute psychiatric wards through changes in nurses' beliefs, attitudes and practices. Two 'City Nurses' were employed to work with two acute wards for 1 year, assisting with the implementation of changes according to a working model of conflict and containment generation, itself based on previous research. Evaluation was via before-and-after measures. Statistically and clinically significant decreases in conflict occurred, with falls in aggression, absconding and self-harm. Ward atmosphere improved and nurse-patient interaction rates increased. There was no significant change in containment method use. Significant reductions in aggression, absconding and self-harm can be achieved on acute psychiatric wards. However, it does not appear that containment can be reduced, even through large reductions in conflict.

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