• staff training;
  • skills;
  • nursing;
  • mental health;
  • mental illness;
  • expressed emotion;
  • management strategies

Background. Working with people with mental illness is very challenging and mental health workers can have a significant impact on the mental status of their patients. Few studies have been published that describe training programmes for this staff group.

Aim. This paper aims to describe and evaluate a training programme for generic mental health workers used in the context of a residential unit for ‘difficult to place’ mentally ill patients.

Method. The staff training programme was adapted from a previous programme showing good efficacy. It was conducted over 10 sessions and addressed a wide range of issues relating to the management of mentally ill patients, with the use of a variety of teaching methods. Twenty-nine generic mental health workers participated in the programme. The impact of the programme was examined using a knowledge questionnaire and a semi-structured questionnaire exploring the range and use of management strategies by staff members.

Results. Comparison of pre- and post-training measures indicated that the training programme increased staff knowledge of schizophrenia and the use of certain management skills, in particular, systematic strategies to effect change. This included increased use of structured programmes with patients.

Conclusion. The training programme was effective in increasing knowledge and skills of staff and could be used with a variety of psychiatric staff. There are numerous limitations to this study, in particular the poor attendance rates which are likely to have decreased the impact of the programme.