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The experiences of patients who elope from psychiatric units : a qualitative study McIndoe, Katherine Isobel


This study was designed to investigate how psychiatric patients explain their elopements from hospital. A limited amount is known about elopement and the available literature is written from the perspective of the caretaker. The study was qualitative in design. Indepth interviews were conducted with five patients when they returned to the hospital following their elopements. The data from these interviews were analyzed using content analysis and from this analysis, conceptual themes were constructed. The concept of alienation was utilized by the researcher to explain the accounts of the patients. The patients in the study experienced a loss of control over their entry into hospital, over their treatment and programme, and over events directly linked to their elopements. The programmes and treatments were frequently viewed as meaningless or not making sense. Elopement was viewed as a positive event by each of the patients because it provided an opportunity for some control and some freedom. The interdependence between the patients' subjective experiences and the objective organization of the hospital was examined. It was explained that due to their placement in the hierarchy of the hospital, patients often feel powerless to affect what is occurring. Moreover, the patients in this study felt they were not informed about the rationales for the decisions that were made about them. It was argued that while nurses believe they are addressing the concerns of patients, this did not occur for the people in this study. Implications for nursing practice, education and research concluded this study.

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