Caring for those with mental health conditions on a children's ward

Br J Nurs. 2010 Oct 28-Nov 10;19(19):1226-30. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2010.19.19.79303.


Background: 20% of young people experience mental health distress (e.g. depression, suicide, and psychological disturbances of varying intensity). Failure to provide timely, effective and appropriate interventions to young people experiencing mental health difficulties can have profound and lasting consequences. Nurses practising in paediatric settings should be prepared to nurse young people with mental health problems.

Methods: The study methodology was an exploratory mixed methods approach, with both descriptive statistics and qualitative findings. This study was undertaken with registered nurses from two children's medical/surgical units in the Republic of Ireland. A questionnaire entitled 'Nurses' Experiences of Nursing Young People with Mental Health Problems in the Paediatric Ward Setting' was used for data collection. SPSS 11.0 and content analysis were used for data analysis. A convenience sample was used, with a response rate of 56%.

Results: 68% of nurses had inadequate educational preparation for nursing young people with mental health problems; 81% of nurses believed that in-house educational courses did not facilitate care for mental health issues in young people. Anorexia nervosa, depression and suicidal tendencies were the three most common problems identified in this study. Overall, 67% of nurses were dissatisfied with having to nurse young people with mental health problems on a general paediatric ward.

Conclusions: 87% of nurses highlighted that young people with mental health problems should be nursed by mental health nurses in separate adolescent units. Recommendations are made for further developments in the nursing care of young people with mental health problems.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Child
  • Clinical Competence
  • Education, Nursing, Continuing
  • Empathy
  • Health Facility Environment
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training
  • Ireland
  • Mental Disorders / nursing*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Nurse's Role / psychology
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / education
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Nursing* / education
  • Psychiatric Nursing* / organization & administration
  • Qualitative Research
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Total Quality Management