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What are the experiences of emergency department nurses in caring for clients with a mental illness in the emergency department

journal contribution
posted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by Donna Marynowski, John BroadbentJohn Broadbent
Background: Australian Emergency Departments are experiencing increased numbers of clients with a mental illness and Emergency Departments are becoming increasingly utilised as the first point of contact and portal into the mental health care system. Therefore nurses working within the Emergency Departments find themselves having to care for clients with a mental illness as part of their daily work. The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of the experiences of Emergency Department nurses caring for clients with a mental illness in the Emergency Department. Methods: An interpretive phenomenological study was undertaken using semi structured interviews to enable the lived experiences of Emergency Department nurses to be discovered and articulated. Six Registered Nurses working within an Emergency Department were interviewed, and these participants were asked to tell the story of their experiences in their own words. Results: Results are based on data collected from six participant interviews. Three major themes emerged related to caring for clients with a mental illness in the Emergency Department: (i) Time as a causative factor, (ii) environment and the influence of surroundings and (iii) understanding the client’s personal journey. Conclusions: Data obtained from participants in this study confirm what has been reported in the literature, that is, that there has been an increase in presentations of clients with a mental illness to the Emergency Department, and the results of this study highlight that time constraints specific to the Emergency Department impact both the client with the mental illness and the Emergency Department nurse caring for these clients. In addition, narratives from Emergency Department nurses purport that the environment within the Emergency Department is not conducive to the provision of optimal care to this client group who have unique care needs and require a specialised management focus. Furthermore, the participants expressed that they had difficulty conceptualising the role of the Emergency Department in the client’s personal journey. The concept of recovery in mental health comes into conflict with the culture within the Emergency Department that views recovery as a restoration or return to health rather than the unique journey of the client living with a mental illness.


Category 1 - Australian Competitive Grants (this includes ARC, NHMRC)






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United Kingdom





Peer Reviewed


Open Access


External Author Affiliations

Institute for Health and Social Science Research (IHSSR);

Era Eligible



Australasian emergency nursing journal.