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J Nurs Care Qual. 1996 Oct;11(1):29-37.

Least restrictive alternatives: do they really work?

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  • 1Department of Medicine, VA Western New York Health Care System, Buffalo, USA.


Seclusion and restraint continue to spark debate regarding their therapeutic value and ethical, legal, and humanitarian implications, yet they remain frequently used forms of treatment in psychiatric settings. Identifying specific alternatives to seclusion and restraint use, teaching nursing staff how and when to use them, and determining their effect on patient outcome are important quality improvement issues. A quality improvement study conducted at a long-term care psychiatric facility identified alternatives that nursing staff used and their effect on reducing seclusion and restraint rates. A total of 773 incidents of disruptive behavior were managed with least restrictive alternatives and did not require the use of seclusion or restraint. One-to-one verbal intervention followed by medication as needed represented the most frequently used alternative. Total seclusion and restraint hours decreased by 31 percent, and restraint hours decreased by 47 percent.

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