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Emergency Department Re-Presentations Following Intentional Self-Harm

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posted on 2021-11-08, 02:01 authored by Kuehl, Silke

Repeat intentional self-harm (ISH) episodes are strongly correlated to suicide. Intentional self-harm for this thesis includes suicide attempts, deliberate self-harm and suicidal ideation. The aim was to describe what factors contribute to people re-presenting to the emergency department (ED) within one week of a previous visit for intentional self-harm. Objectives identified were to describe the people using demographic and clinical features; describe and evaluate ED management; and identify possible personal or system reasons as to why people re-present to ED within one week. A retrospective observational design was selected for a period of one year. The data was collected from electronic clinical case notes. The sample consisted of 48 people with 73 presentations and re-presentations. Descriptive and inferential analyses were undertaken using the Statistical Programme for Social Science (SPSS). Missing data limited the number of inferential analyses. Outcome measures were divided into information regarding the person and the presentation. This study made several discoveries: many representations (55%) occurred within one day; the exact number of people who represented many times to ED is unknown, but is far higher than reported in other studies; fewer support people were present for the second presentation; the documentation of triage and assessments by ED staff was often minimal, though frequently portrayed immense distress of this population; cultural input for Maori was missing; physical health complaints and psychosis were found with some intentional self-harm presentations; challenging behaviours occurred in at least a quarter of presentations; and the medical and mental health inpatient admission rates were approximately 50% higher for second presentations. Recommendations in regard to the use of a triage assessment tool, the practice of reviewing peoples' past presentations and the need for a mental health consultation liaison nurse in ED are made. Staff education, collaboration between services with consumer involvement and further research of this group are required. This study supports the need for holistic and expert care for people who present ED with intentional self-harm. Such care needs to be provided in a safe way with the intent on reducing the distress experienced by people who intentionally self-harm.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Nursing (Clinical)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Graduate School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health


Nelson, Kathy