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Keywords:

  • deliberate self-harm;
  • emergency department;
  • nursing actions;
  • practice procedures;
  • risk assessment

Emergency department nurses are often required to assess and manage the needs of people who self-harm. A survey of 352 nurses working within 23 major public and 14 major private emergency departments in Queensland, Australia, investigated the extent to which formal and informal procedures are available and the extent to which these procedures guide how nurses respond to clients who present with deliberate self-harm. The Risk Assessment Questionnaire was developed and found that nurses are frequently called to respond to clients presenting because of deliberate self-harm, but most have no formal training in this area. In some services there is a lack of formal and comprehensive procedures for assessment and treatment. Where procedures do exist, significant therapeutic areas related to assessment are not explored with clients. These findings have implications for continuing professional development activities, nursing education programs and clinical practice procedures.