Disability support workers’ knowledge and education needs about psychotropic medication



Accessible summary

  •  The staff who are paid to support people with an intellectual disability in Australia are called disability support workers.
  •  As part of their job, disability support workers give out medications when the doctor says to. Some of these medications are used to help people with disability to calm down when they are angry. Often, these medications are not for treating any illness. These medications can sometimes make people feel very ill. In the past, the staff who used to give out these medications were nurses, but nurses do not do this job anymore.
  •  This study asked disability support workers what they think they need to know about the medications they give out.
  •  Most of the disability support workers said they needed to know more about these medications if they were to keep people safe, and it would also help them to talk to the doctors about what these medications are for when they go to appointments with people with a disability.


Disability support workers are the predominant workforce employed to support people with an intellectual disability in Australia. Many support workers are required to assist people they support to take psychotropic medications in the form of chemical restraint. Support workers in Australia receive limited education and training in this area and as a result may miss important information about effects of medication on the people they support. In this study, we asked support workers about their education and training needs around chemical restraint. Our results showed that while the majority of support workers feel they are provided with good support from their co-workers and supervisors, they feel they need more specific information regarding the side effects of psychotropic medication and its alternatives. Finding ways to support the support workers is crucial if we are to minimise the use of chemical restraint and provide best support possible to people with disabilities.