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Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2013 Mar;34(3):198-207. doi: 10.3109/01612840.2012.733907.

Are nurses in mental health services providing physical health care for people with serious mental illness? An Australian perspective.

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Central Queensland University, Institute for Health and Social Science Research, Centre for Mental Health Nursing Innovation and School of Nursing and Midwifery, Rockhampton, 4701 Australia.


People with serious mental illness are at high-risk for physical illnesses and premature death, and nurses can contribute to ensuring mental health services address these risks. There is very little research examining the role of nurses in mental health who provide physical health care. To identify the levels of participation in physical health care of people with serious mental illness (SMI), a national Internet-based survey of nurses working in mental health in Australia was conducted (n = 643). The survey included an adapted version of the Robson and Haddad Physical Health Attitude Scale. Data were analysed through comparison of frequencies, correlations, principal components analysis, and Mann-Whitney tests. Nurses reported regular physical health care in 12 of the 17 tasks presented to them. The three most common self-reported physical health care activities were inquiring about consumers' contact with GPs, doing physical assessments, and providing information on drug use and lifestyle. Although some practices were less common (e.g., contraceptive advice) nurses who provided one type of care tended to do other types as well. In addition, credentialing in mental health nursing was associated with slightly more regular engagement in all practice domains except screening and assessments. Nurses in mental health in Australia may be engaged in improving physical health of consumers with SMI more than is assumed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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