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Nurses’attitudes towards mentally ill patients Quee, Kathy


Patients who are physically and mentally ill are increasingly cared for by local general hospital medical-surgical nurses. The purpose of this descriptive survey study was to (a) describe the attitudes of medical-surgical nurses towards the mentally ill, (b) identify factors that affect medical-surgical nurses' caring for mentally ill patients, and (c) identify and describe the relationship between medical-surgical nurses' attitudes towards the mentally ill and selected variables. The sample consisted of 113 randomly selected registered nurses employed full or part-time on medical or surgical units in general hospitals throughout British Columbia. Attitudes were measured using the Opinions About Mental Illness (OMI) developed by Cohen and Struening (1962). Participants also completed a general demographic questionnaire which asked what factors nurses felt affected their ability to care for mentally ill patients. The majority of the nurses in the sample were prepared at the diploma level and worked in urban areas. The average length of nursing experience was 13 years. Most respondents had psychiatric clinical experience in their education with no further inservices or educational training on care of mentally ill patients. Approximately one-half of the nurses had a personal experience with individuals diagnosed with a mental illness. Data revealed lower scores than previous studies on the OMI factors of Authoritarianism, Social Restrictiveness, and Interpersonal Etiology, indicating a more positive view of the mentally ill. Higher scores on Benevolence and lower scores on Mental Hygiene Ideology indicate a paternalistic need to care for these patients and a less optimistic view of mental illness. Computation of the Pearson r coefficient revealed that the greatest influence in decreasing socially restrictive attitudes towards the mentally ill is advanced education beyond the diploma level. Findings also indicated that nurses who did not have additional education in the care of the mentally ill were more likely to ascribe to a belief in Interpersonal Etiology as a cause of mental illness than were those with further education. Major factors that nurses identified as affecting their ability to care for mentally ill patients were a lack of time to care for mentally ill patients, and a lack of knowledge and experience with mentally ill patients.

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