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Keywords:

  • elder care;
  • empirical research report;
  • nursing staff;
  • physical restraint;
  • questionnaires;
  • rehabilitation;
  • survey

Aim.  This paper reports a study examining the knowledge, attitudes and practices of staff with regard to the use of restraints in rehabilitative settings, and quantifying the direct and indirect effects of the factors that influenced these practices.

Background.  Nursing staff hold many misconceptions that support the continued use of physical restraints as a desirable technique in clinical settings to control clients. A number of previous studies measuring the knowledge, attitudes and/or practices of nursing staff towards the use of restraints have been conducted in acute, elder care, or psychiatric settings. However, not many have examined the predictors of staff practices when restraints are applied. In the study reported here, physical restraint was defined as any manual method or physical/mechanical device, material or equipment attached to a client's body so that their free movement was restricted.

Methods.  A questionnaire was administered to 168 nursing staff in two rehabilitation centres in Hong Kong. The data were collected in 2002–2003 and the response rate was 80%.

Findings.  Inadequate knowledge and negative attitudes on the use of restraints were found among staff. Most believed that good alternatives to restraints are not available, or they underestimated the physical and psychological impact of restraints on clients. Path analysis indicated that staff attitudes and their clinical experiences had positive direct effects on restraint use. In addition, level of knowledge and clinical experience had a positive indirect effect on practice by influencing attitudes.

Conclusion.  These data could serve as a basis for re-educating nursing staff on the subject. Staff with more clinical experience could give appropriate guidance to other members of staff on decisions to apply restraints. More effective alternative interventions to restraining clients should be explored. Once the gaps in knowledge are closed, more positive attitudes among staff towards the use of restraints can be cultivated, thus leading to a higher standard of nursing practice.