Experiences of nurses caring for mental health care users in an acute admission unit at a psychiatric hospital
The provision of mental health care, treatment and rehabilitation of the acutely ill mental health care users (MHCUS) poses a major challenge to the nurses working in acute units. Nurses spend long hours ensuring that acutely ill psychiatric patients receive quality patient care in acute admission units in different psychiatric hospitals in South Africa. With few studies showing a rise in the prevalence of mental disorders in the South Africa and the Western Cape Province, acute psychiatric inpatient units across the province have experienced intense pressure and persistent rise in the number of acute patient admissions. Dealing with this group of patients is a difficult task particularly for nurses who spent prolonged hours caring for them. Despite the continuing provision of care to MHCUS by nurses in acute admission units, very little is known about the lived experiences of nurses in acute admission units. The aim of this study was to explore and describe the lived experiences of nurses who care for the acutely ill MHCUS in an acute male admission unit at a psychiatric hospital in the Western Cape. Acutely ill MHCUS in acute psychiatric units show severely disturbed behaviour at times, aggression, hostility, acute psychotic symptoms and many other symptoms related to psychiatric illness. Methods: a qualitative, descriptive phenomenological research design was used to explore and describe the lived experiences of nurses who care for acutely ill patients in an acute admission unit. A purposive sample of eight nurses was selected. Individual, semi structured phenomenological interviews were used to collect data from nurses caring for MHCUS in an acute admission unit. Data saturation was reached after carrying out the eight interviews. These interviews were audio taped and transcribed verbatim and Collaizi’s (1978) seven steps method of qualitative data was applied to analyse the collected data. Findings: The study found that nurses in the acute admission unit experienced several challenges while caring for MHCUs. Nurses reported both negative and positive experiences. Positive experiences included MHCUs recovery, teamwork and passion for caring while negative experiences were feeling unappreciated and unsupported by authorities. Furthermore, they reported physical assault by MHCUs which led to fear. Challenges experienced included shortage of staff and increased workload which led to burnout amongst nurses in acute admission units.