Coping with everyday reality: Mental health professionals’ reflections on the care provided in an acute psychiatric ward


  • Jan Kåre Hummelvoll, RPN, RNT, BA, Dr PH

  • Elisabeth Severinsson, RPN, RNT, MNSc, Dr PH

Correspondence: Jan Kåre Hummelvoll, Falsens gate 6, N-2317 Hamar, Norway. Email:


There is little research evidence about how the mental health professionals are coping with the complexity of everyday practice in psychiatric acute care. The aim of this study was to explore mental health professionals’ reflections on their work on an acute psychiatric ward. Data were collected using participant observation and interview methods. Three core themes were identified from a qualitative hermeneutic analysis. The first core theme, coping with uncertainty, uncovered a dialectical pattern of the factors contributing to thriving and strain in the working situation. The second core theme, caring for the patient, included the caring process, patients’ pathway to acute psychiatric care, as well as the patients’ needs and roles on the ward. The third core theme, coping strategies, included five different methods the primary nursing system, concealing versus integrating, milieu therapy, seclusion and the medical orientated model. It was concluded that good mental health care is a result of collaboration between health professionals and the health services. This study highlights the need for support to professionals and for establishing structures that will enable collaboration to take place. Taken together, this may contribute to enhancing the care of the patient and their families.