This study was carried out in a large Metropolitan General Hospital in New York, USA. The aim of the study was to determine the differences in nurses' attitudes towards a general hospital patient who had, or had not, a previous psychiatric illness. One hundred and twenty-eight graduate (trained) nurses were asked to read the patient's case notes, to view videotapes and to answer questionnaires as part of the research method. Analysis of the data obtained demonstrates the statistically significant finding below the 0·02 level that the nurses' attitudes were generally more negative towards the former psychiatric patient. In several instances, the disturbed behaviour of the patient was more significant than the patient's previous hospitalization: the findings also suggest that the graduate nurses equate mental illness with organic causes.
The study poses many questions for nurse educators, but particularly for those responsible for psychiatric nursing education.