Reasons for admission and their implications for the nature of acute inpatient psychiatric nursing


L. Bowers, St Bartholomew School of Nursing and Midwifery, City University, Philpot Street, London E1 2EA, UK, E-mail:


The purpose of acute inpatient psychiatric care, and nurses’ role within that, are in need of clarification and restatement in order to provide a framework for practice, education, research and development. Inpatient psychiatry has suffered from a paucity of research in recent years. In addition, being a complex system, involving multiple professions with differing ideologies, means that widely accepted succinct descriptions of its purpose are hard to achieve. Yet such a framework is essential to support positive attitudes to patients and for good staff-management relationships. Using an oblique strategy, this paper defines the function of acute inpatient psychiatry, and the role of psychiatric nurses, via a structured examination of the literature on reasons for admission to acute inpatient psychiatric wards. Seven such reasons were discovered and are described: dangerousness, assessment, medical treatment, severe mental disorder, self-care deficits, respite for carers, and respite for the patient. Acute inpatient psychiatric nurses are therefore: providing safety for the patient and others; collecting and communicating information about patients, giving and monitoring treatment; tolerating and managing disturbed behaviour; providing personal care; and managing an environment where patients can comfortably stay. The implications for psychiatric nursing are discussed.