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Specialist educational intervention for mental health nursing staff: delivery, content and personal impact


  • Penny Bee BSc PhD,

  • David Richards BSc PhD RN,

  • Samantha Loftus BSc MSc,

  • John Baker MPhil MSc BNurs RN,

  • Lorna Bailey,

  • Karina Lovell MSc PhD RN

David Richards,
Department of Health Sciences,
University of York,
Seebohm Rowntree Building,
University Road,
YO10 5DD,


Aim.  This paper reports a study to ascertain the views of acute ward-based mental health nursing staff on the delivery, content and personal impact of an innovative 18-day, whole team educational intervention in acute mental health care.

Background.  There are grave concerns internationally about the quality of inpatient mental health care for people with acute psychiatric problems. Educational courses are needed to improve these services. However, existing schemes are often selective, hard to access and limited to developing highly specialist skills for senior nurses. They have also been criticized for making no difference to clinical practice. There is little evidence to guide the development of these or alternative team-based courses.

Method.  Qualitative data were collected over a 6-week period using 12 focus group interviews and individual questionnaires.

Results.  Four themes were identified. The joint education of nursing staff from different organizations was welcomed and reduced feelings of ward isolation. Mixing qualified and unqualified staff was not regarded positively. In terms of course content and learning themes, unqualified staff were more likely to report positive learning outcomes for knowledge, skills, attitude, morale and personal development; qualified nurses were more likely to indicate positive outcomes in anonymized data from questionnaires than from focus groups. Both groups reported little chance of knowledge implementation without changes in the organization of care.

Conclusion.  Whilst it may be desirable to educate whole nursing teams, more benefit might be gained from shared education between several organizations and separating the education of qualified and unqualified staff before combining these groups in team education. Participants remained pessimistic about their chances of implementing new knowledge and skills in current acute inpatient mental health environments.