Forensic psychiatric nursing: a description of the role of the psychiatric nurse in a high secure psychiatric facility in Ireland


  • D. TIMMONS msc mental health pgdip forensic behavioural science cert management enb 998 rmn

    1. Assistant Director of Nursing – Practice Development, National Forensic Mental Health Service, Dublin, Ireland
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D. Timmons
National Forensic Mental Health Service
Central Mental Hospital
Dublin 14


Accessible summary

  • • This paper describes the role of the psychiatric nurse working in a high secure psychiatric facility in Ireland.
  • • Since this study in 2006, this role has transformed moving from a custodial to a recovery model of care.
  • • The United Kingdom Central Council framework for this study provided a useful method to establish a baseline for this role and as part of strategy to develop nursing practice.


The Central Mental Hospital is one of the oldest high secure mental health services in Europe dating back to 1845 but has been one of the last to introduce (forensic) psychiatric nurses. This paper describes the role of psychiatric nurses working in this high secure psychiatric facility in Ireland. The United Kingdom Central Council competency framework was considered to be a prudent starting point for beginning to understand this role in an Irish context. The study received a response rate of 74% and found that the Irish Forensic Mental Health Nurse experiences many of the same challenges as their international colleagues. A high proportion of nursing practice is focused on assessment, communication and creating a therapeutic environment based very much in keeping with the mainstream role in mental health nursing. Skills in specialist assessments and addressing offending behaviour were considered important but deficient at that time. The importance of recovery and human rights were considered paramount but challenged by the need for risk management and security.