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Keywords:

  • acute mental health care;
  • inpatients;
  • interviews;
  • nursing;
  • patient experiences;
  • psychotropic medication

Aims.  This paper reports a study which aimed to explore service users’ views and experiences of the processes associated with the prescription and administration of ‘as needed’ (p.r.n.) psychotropic medications in acute mental health settings.

Background.  Few studies have explored the use of ‘as needed’ medication in acute mental healthcare settings. Such medication is frequently requested by service users, but the literature is unclear about the reasons for these requests or service users’ experiences of this treatment.

Method.  A convenience sample of 22 inpatients participated in face-to-face semi-structured interviews exploring their treatment experiences of ‘as needed’ psychotropic medication in acute mental health settings in a large city in the United Kingdom in 2005. Thematic content analysis was carried out.

Results.  Interviewees highlighted the value of ‘as needed’ medications. However, the process associated with their use was perceived as confusing and stigmatizing. Service users had limited understanding of and felt unsupported in attempts to use alternatives approaches. Additionally, the decision-making and information-giving processes were unclear to them, which raises issues of power and control in acute mental health settings.

Conclusions.  Nurses should take account of the issues of power and control when administering ‘as needed’ medication. The provision of adequate treatment information should be a priority to enable informed choices to be made about this form of medication.