Recognition and management of agitation in acute mental health services: a qualitative evaluation of staff perceptions

Joshua Tucker, Lisa Whitehead*, Peter Palamara, Josephine Xenia Rosman, Karla Seaman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Agitation among patients is a common and distressing behaviour across a variety of health care settings, particularly inpatient mental health. Unless recognised early and effectively managed it can lead to aggression and personal injury. The aim of this paper is to explore the experiences of mental health nurses in recognising and managing agitation in an inpatient mental health setting and the alignment of these experiences with best practice and person-centred care. Methods: This study used a descriptive qualitative methodology. Semi-structured focus group interviews were conducted with 20 nurses working in a mental health unit in 2018. Nursing staff described their experiences of assessing and managing agitation. Descriptive and Thematic Analysis were undertaken of the transcribed focus group dialogue. Results: Nurses combined their clinical knowledge, assessment protocols and training with information from patients to make an individualised assessment of agitation. Nurses also adopted an individualised approach to management by engaging patients in decisions about their care. In keeping with best practice recommendations, de-escalation strategies were the first choice option for management, though nurses also described using both coercive restraint and medication under certain circumstances. From the perspective of patient-centred care, the care provided aligned with elements of person-centred care nursing care. Conclusion: The findings suggest that clinical mental health nurses assess and manage agitation, with certain exceptions, in line with best practice and a person-centred care nursing framework.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Nursing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Agitation
  • Assessment
  • Management
  • Mental health
  • Nurses, person-centred care
  • Qualitative research

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