• psychiatry;
  • inpatients;
  • physical restraint;
  • pharmacological restraint;
  • seclusion

Medicate, restrain or seclude? Strategies for dealing with violent and threatening behaviour in a Norwegian university psychiatric hospital

The aim of this study was to examine staff strategies for applying emergency procedures with patients who were violent or threatening. The study addressed those situations where verbal intervention, voluntary medication, and other interventions had been tried unsuccessfully and where staff found it necessary to apply emergency procedures in the shape of forced emergency medication (pharmacological restraint), physical restraint, and seclusion. The study was conducted in a 100-bed Norwegian university psychiatric hospital. By retrospectively examining hospital records we found there were 797 episodes of physical restraint, 384 episodes of pharmacological restraint, and 88 episodes of seclusion during a five and a half year period. The preferred emergency procedures varied significantly with patients' sex, age, and diagnoses. Physical restraint was preferred more often with male, younger, and nonpsychotic patients. Pharmacological restraint was preferred more often with female patients and older patients with a nonorganic psychotic disorder. Seclusion was preferred more often with older male patients with an organic psychotic disorder.