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Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2014 Jun;23(3):212-20. doi: 10.1111/inm.12044. Epub 2013 Sep 17.

Measuring the evidence: reviewing the literature of the measurement of therapeutic engagement in acute mental health inpatient wards.

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School of Nursing & Midwifery, University of Salford, Salford, UK.


Quality nursing plays a central role in the delivery of contemporary health and social care, with a positive correlation being demonstrated between patient satisfaction and the quality of nursing care received. One way to ensure such quality is to develop metrics that measure the effectiveness of various aspects of care across a variety of settings. Effective mental health nursing is predicated on understanding the lived experiences of service users in order to provide sensitively-attuned nursing care. To achieve this, mental health nurses need to establish the all-important therapeutic relationship, showing compassion and creating a dialogue whereby service users feel comfortable to share their experiences that help contextualize their distress. Indeed, service users value positive attitudes, being listened to, and being able to trust those who provide care, while mental health nurses value their ability to relate through talking, listening, and expressing empathy. However, the literature suggests that within mental health practice, a disproportionate amount of time is taken up by other activities, with little time being spent listening and talking to service users. The present study discusses the evidence relating to the therapeutic relationship in acute mental health wards and explores why, after five decades, it is not recognized as a fundamental metric of mental health nursing.


barrier; mental health nursing; metric; therapeutic engagement

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