Psychiatric nurses’ attitudes towards identified inpatients as measured by the semantic differential technique


Ove Hellzén, Department of Health and Caring Science, Mid-Sweden University, SE-851 70 Sundsvall, Sweden.


Nursing care can figuratively be described as a gift that is given by the nurse in the nurse–patient relationship where attitudes play an important role for the gift's appearance. Sometimes patients are unwilling to or incapable of accepting the gift and this can lead to situations in which nurses are not able to handle their situation in a professional manner. This research survey aimed to investigate nurses’ attitudes and find a structure in nurses’ attitudes towards their patients.

Six psychiatric group dwellings and six acute psychiatric hospital wards participated in the study. In all, 2700 assessments of 163 patients were sent out to 160 respondents and 2436 answers were returned. The semantic differential technique was used. The scale has 57 bipolar pairs of adjective, which estimate an unknown number of dimensions of nurses’ attitudes towards an identified patient. The respondents’ answers were analysed through factor analysis rotated using the Varimax method and etropy-based measures of association combined with structural plots were also used.

Both the factor analysis and the entropy revealed three factors, which were interpreted as being of evaluative type. Factor 1 was interpreted as describing nurses’ answers mainly as a combination of an ethical and aesthetic evaluation of the patients. Factor 2 was interpreted as being of an empathetic type and factor 3 as nurses’ experiences of the patients’ cognitive capacity. The study indicates that the dominant aspect of nurses’ attitudes in a psychiatric context is the ethical/aesthetic dimension, which is an important finding for the understanding of nurses’ attitudes and actions towards their patients.