The Nurses’ Global Assessment of Suicide Risk (NGASR): developing a tool for clinical practice

Authors

  • J. R. CUTCLIFFE rmn rgn bsc(hons) nrsg phd,

    Corresponding author
    1. Professor of Nursing and Canadian Research Chair Nominee, University of Northern British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada, and
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  • P. BARKER phdrmnfrcn

    1. Visiting Professor Trinity College Dublin, Ireland and Director of Clan Unity Mental Health Recovery Consultancy, Dundee, Scotland
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J. R. Cutcliffe
University of Northern British
Columbia
3333 University Way
Prince George
British Columbia, V4N 4Z9
Canada
E-mail: cutclifj@unbc.ca

Abstract

Contemporary and established literature indicates that people with mental health problems are at a higher risk of suicide than the general population. Because suicide is a multifaceted, complex phenomenon, risk assessment within the mental health care system requires a pluralistic, multidimensional and multiprofessional response. While assessment tools may provide useful guidance, especially guarding against complacency and over confidence, the fundamental basis of risk assessment must involve a thorough examination of the personal, interpersonal and social circumstances of each individual. Such thorough and rigorous assessments, the authors of this paper would add, require a degree of ‘clinical judgement’. As a rule, inexperienced members of mental health care staff should not be charged with the responsibility of conducting suicide risk assessments without sound mentorship. However, with the right support and assessment tool, the novice practitioner might develop the kind of clinical judgement necessary for this critical task. Accordingly, this paper traces the development of the Nurses’ Global Assessment of Suicide Risk (NGASR). It illustrates the practice development context out of which the need for the tool arose; it outlines the key evidence that underpins the construction of the tool and it is described. It is important to point out that as yet, no wide scale, quantitative validation of the tool has been conducted. Therefore, at this point, the tool should be treated with a degree of appropriate caution. Nevertheless, the preliminary attempts that have been made to ‘validate’ or ‘rate’ the tool in practice are included. While acknowledging that any risk assessment tool represents only one aspect of the necessarily broader assessment of risk, the NGASR appears to provide a useful template for the nursing assessment of suicide risk, especially for the novice.

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