Acute Care Registered Nurses Awareness of the Availability of Psychiatric Home Health Nursing Services

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mary A. Crisler, MSN
Behavioral Health Unit, St. Mary's Hospital (Decatur, IL), Decatur, IL
Marilyn A. Prausun, PhD
School of Nursing, Millikin University, Decatur, IL
Sheryl J. Samuelson, PhD
School of Nursing, Milliken University, Decatur, IL

Learning Objective 1: identify those patients at risk who would benefit from the psychiatric home health nursing services.

Learning Objective 2: describe the methods of developing nursing resources to facilitate psychiatric care and referral as an outpatient.

Meeting the needs of individuals with mental illness is an increasingly difficult challenge, requiring new approaches to successfully and cost-effectively intervene. While institutional care of the mentally ill has decreased considerably in the last 35 years, many patients have moved into the community and encountered difficulties adjusting to their life situation and managing basic daily activities.  Nursing awareness of homecare and outpatient resources is critical to ensuring optimal care of this patient population.  The purpose of this study was to examine the awareness of acute care nursing staff regarding the availability of psychiatric home healthcare services.  A convenience sample of RNs on inpatient units of a rural acute care facility was surveyed (n = 95), yielding a response rate of 38%.  Inferential statistics were used to analyze the results.  Descriptive relationships between variables were interpreted using Chi-Square statistics.  The findings indicate that 66.7% of acute care nurses surveyed were not aware of the availability of psychiatric home health services. 

Improving the awareness and utilization of psychiatric home services must involve ongoing and aggressive staff development.  Staff development methods include unit education regarding patient assessment and signs of behavioral problems, a unit resource book with program and contact information, and quarterly updates on referrals and resulting patient outcomes. Through continued ongoing education of the acute care nursing staff improved recognition of patients at risk and appropriate referral of this patient population to homecare services can occur.  Further research and program development is warranted to facilitate transition of patients suffering from diagnosable psychiatric disorders to an outpatient setting.