The relationship between support and stress in forensic community mental health nursing


Michael Coffey, School of Health Science, University of Wales Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK. E-mail:


The relationship between support and stress in forensic community mental health nursing

Aims of the study/paper.  This paper reports the results of a survey of forensic community mental health nurses (FCMHNs) in England and Wales which aimed to ascertain the level of stress and burnout experienced by this group.

Background/Rationale.  Several studies have identified that mental health nursing is a stressful activity and the relationship between factors such as age, experience, support, caseload size and perceived stress have been explored. However, until recently, no studies have examined the situation of FCMHNs and this paper extends the analysis of studies completed by the main author, considering issues related to coping abilities and support systems.

Design/Methods.  The survey involved respondents completing a demographic questionnaire and a range of standardized validated measures (Maslach Burnout Inventory, General Health Questionnaire and Community Psychiatric Nurse Stress Questionnaire). The population for the study was all identified FCMHNs attached to the 26 National Health Service (NHS) Medium Secure Units in England and Wales (n=104).

Results/Findings.  A high response rate of 77% (n=80) was achieved. The results identified that a number of respondents were experiencing burnout. Statistically significant associations were found between caseload size and level of stress. The results also suggest that support from managers and colleagues were an important factor in ameliorating the experience of stress and show that individuals in this study experiencing high levels of stress adopted palliative behaviours such as use of alcohol.

Conclusions.  The paper concludes by suggesting that such findings should be considered when delivering stress management programmes and reinforce the potential benefit of effective clinical supervision as a means of staff support.