• adolescents;
  • attitudes;
  • children;
  • forensic nursing;
  • harm minimization;
  • prison nursing;
  • self-harm

dickinson t. & hurley m. (2012) Exploring the antipathy of nursing staff who work within secure healthcare facilities across the United Kingdom to young people who self-harm. Journal of Advanced Nursing68(1), 147–158.


Aims.  This paper is a report of a study that compared relevant attitudinal dimensions of Registered Nurses and nursing aides working within a Young Offenders’ Institute and two young people’s forensic units in the United Kingdom towards young people in their care who self-harm.

Background.  Nurses caring for young people within secure environments may engage at some point with patients who harm themselves. These staff often experience strong negative emotional reactions which can lead to antipathy and alienation.

Methods.  Forty seven Registered Nurses and 22 nursing aides completed the Self-Harm Antipathy Scale, which consists of 30 attitudinal self-report items. The data were collected between June 2008 and December 2008, and analysed using spss version 17.

Results.  Results displayed that age per se, length of service with self-harming clients, and whether the participant was a Registered Nurse or nursing aide, and number of self-harming clients worked with did not influence the Self-Harm Antipathy Scale score or any of its component sub-scores. However, field of nursing the nurse was registered under, previous study of self-harm, year first registered and gender showed significant effects.

Conclusions.  Given that responses reflect a degree of both empathy and apathy it seems that there is a need to promote greater therapeutic alliances and communication; for example, the use of positive regard to help reduce the incidence of labelling and the negative effects this has upon relationships. There is a significant need for nursing staff working with young people who self-harm to have access to relevant educational programmes. A focus on harm minimization could be key areas for further development.