A modified grounded theory study of how psychiatric nurses work with suicidal people

Int J Nurs Stud. 2006 Sep;43(7):791-802. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2005.09.001. Epub 2005 Nov 10.


Background: People with mental health problems continue to present a disproportionately high risk of suicide. Despite the relevance of suicide to psychiatric/mental health (P/MH) nurses, there is a documented paucity of research in this substantive area undertaken by or referring specifically to P/MH nurses; there is currently no extant theory to guide P/MH nursing care of the suicidal person.

Objectives: Accordingly, this paper reports on a study undertaken to determine if P/MH nurses provide meaningful caring response to suicidal people, and if so how.

Design: The study used a modified grounded theory method and was conducted in keeping with the Glaserian tenets of Grounded Theory.

Settings: The study was conducted in two geographical locations within the United Kingdom, one in the North and the other in the Midlands; both locations contained large urban centres.

Participants: A total of 20 participants were selected across the locations by means of theoretical sampling. All the participants were over 18 years old, had made a serious attempt on their lives or felt they were on the cusp of so doing and had received 'crisis' care from the 'emergency' psychiatric services.

Methods: The study adhered to the principle features of Glaserian grounded theory namely-(a) theory generation, not theory verification; (b) theoretical sampling, (c) the constant comparative method of data analysis; and (d) theoretical sensitivity (searching for/discovering the core variable, one which identified the key pychosocial process and contains temporal dimensions stages). Further, the authors ensured that the study was concerned with generating conceptual theory, not conceptual description.

Findings/conclusion: The findings indicate that this key psychosocial problem is addressed through the core variable, 're-connecting the person with humanity'. This parsimonious theory describes and explains a three-stage healing process consisting of the sub-core variables: 'reflecting an image of humanity', 'guiding the individual back to humanity' and 'learning to live'.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Communication
  • Day Care, Medical / psychology
  • Empathy
  • Existentialism / psychology
  • Helping Behavior
  • Humanism
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / nursing
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Nurse's Role* / psychology
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Process
  • Nursing Theory*
  • Philosophy, Nursing
  • Psychiatric Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Research Design
  • Social Support
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom