Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

BMC Nursing






Springer Nature


School of Nursing and Midwifery / Centre for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Services Research




Edith Cowan University - Open Access Support Scheme 2020


Tucker, J., Whitehead, L., Palamara, P., Rosman, J. X., & Seaman, K. (2020). Recognition and management of agitation in acute mental health services: A qualitative evaluation of staff perceptions. BMC Nursing, 19, article 106.


© 2020, The Author(s).

Background: Agitation among patients is a common and distressing behaviour across a variety of health care settings, particularly inpatient mental health. Unless recognised early and effectively managed it can lead to aggression and personal injury. The aim of this paper is to explore the experiences of mental health nurses in recognising and managing agitation in an inpatient mental health setting and the alignment of these experiences with best practice and person-centred care.

Methods: This study used a descriptive qualitative methodology. Semi-structured focus group interviews were conducted with 20 nurses working in a mental health unit in 2018. Nursing staff described their experiences of assessing and managing agitation. Descriptive and Thematic Analysis were undertaken of the transcribed focus group dialogue.

Results: Nurses combined their clinical knowledge, assessment protocols and training with information from patients to make an individualised assessment of agitation. Nurses also adopted an individualised approach to management by engaging patients in decisions about their care. In keeping with best practice recommendations, de-escalation strategies were the first choice option for management, though nurses also described using both coercive restraint and medication under certain circumstances. From the perspective of patient-centred care, the care provided aligned with elements of person-centred care nursing care.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that clinical mental health nurses assess and manage agitation, with certain exceptions, in line with best practice and a person-centred care nursing framework.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.