Suicidal patients as experienced by psychiatric nurses in inpatient care

Pontus Carlen, Anita Bengtsson Tops

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Psychiatric nurses have a major influence on the lives of patients with suicidal behaviour in inpatient care. Despite this, there is a lack of knowledge about how nurses experience patients with suicidal behaviour in a deeper sense. The aim of this study was to investigate how psychiatric nurses experience patients with suicidal behaviour within an inpatient psychiatric context. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 11 psychiatric nurses, each of whom had more than 5 years of experience caring for patients with suicidal behaviour. Data were analysed using qualitative latent content analysis. Two main themes emerged from the data analysis. These are 'labelled' and 'suffering'. In the nurses' natural attitude, they saw patients as being labelled with different conditions and/or behaviours based on objective signs. These were categorized into different groups or identities such as psychiatric diagnosis, mask wearer, screened-off, or the social, relapsing or determined patient. On reflection, however, the nurses described the patients' suffering in terms related to feelings of hopelessness, meaninglessness, and being out of control. The nurses' experiences of the patients as suffering were based on their subjective reflective experience of the patients. The study gives support to the conclusion that two main logic systems are represented in the care of patients with suicidal behaviour: technical practical and nursing perspectives. In order to ensure that these two logic systems combine, it is necessary for the psychiatric care organization to intervene to support the nurses in reflecting on their everyday work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-265
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Nursing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Nursing (30305)


  • psychiatric nursing
  • qualitative research
  • suicidal behaviour


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