Send to

Choose Destination
J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2010 Apr;17(3):268-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2850.2009.01512.x.

Effectiveness of formal observation in inpatient psychiatry in preventing adverse outcomes: the state of the science.

Author information

Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Inpatient Psychiatry, Baltimore, MD 21215, USA.


Formal observation in psychiatric settings is a widely accepted intervention employed by psychiatric nurses to reduce the incidence of adverse patient outcomes such as suicides, self-harm, violence and elopements in the psychiatric population. Formal observation includes general or routine observation, observation every 15 or 30 min, continuous or constant observation, and one-to-one observation. While formal observation consumes nursing resources, the efficacy of formal observation in reducing patient risk and providing therapeutic benefit remains unclear. To date, no randomized controlled studies exist. The existing qualitative research fails to demonstrate a direct correlation between the act of formal observation and the prevention of adverse patient outcomes. Common in the literature is a debate as to whether formal observation or therapeutic engagement is more beneficial. This paper, therefore, identifies gaps in the research and synthesizes relevant research regarding the effectiveness of formal observation in preventing adverse outcomes like suicides, self-harm, violence and elopements.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center