Acute mental health nurses: comprehensive practitioners or specialist therapists?


  • This research was carried out when the author was employed by City University, London.

B. Mathers, University of the West of Scotland, High Street, Paisley PA1 2BE, UK, E-mail:


Accessible summary

  • • Psychosocial interventions (PSI) is an approach for helping people with mental health problems in addition to medication. It is a way for nurses to work closely with patients to help them with their problems.
  • • Nurses (trainees) who were taught PSI on two modules were interviewed to find out the aids and barriers to using the PSI when they were working with patients on acute (admissions) wards.
  • • Most of the trainees found it difficult to use these new skills because of the pressure of time on acute wards.
  • • This article makes recommendations for more effective implementations of PSI in acute wards in the future.


This paper examines the aids and barriers to implementing the psychosocial interventions (PSI) which trainees learned on two teaching modules. The main purpose of the modules is to teach trainees PSI to help them be more effective in their care of patients with severe mental illness. The trainees were qualified nurses working in acute mental health wards in various London hospitals. PSI has been found to be helpful for patients with psychotic symptoms in community contexts. In this study, the implementation of PSI specific to acute inpatient mental health settings is explored. This was achieved by conducting semi-structured audiotaped interviews with all 20 trainees from a single cohort. The data were analysed by categories and themes to elicit not only the problems but also helpful strategies which can be used when working with PSI in acute inpatient mental health settings. The paper concludes by offering recommendations for future good practice for this area of mental health service.