Seclusion Management in an Acute In-Patient Unit
Trends in modern day mental health facilities have been towards the least restrictive environment with emphasis on patients’ rights, but these rights have to be balanced against the safety of both the patients themselves and anyone else in the immediate environment. One way of restricting a person’s movement is through the use of seclusion, a means of isolating a person in a locked room with minimal stimulus and from where that person cannot freely exit. This study was developed to explore the use of seclusion in an acute in-patient unit for people with mental illnesses. Investigation into this issue was considered important due to an identified large increase in seclusion use over the previous two years. The study used a qualitative research methodology with a descriptive and interpretive approach. Data collection included a retrospective file audit of patients who had been secluded over the past seven years, and one-to-one staff interviews. I also included some personal reflections of seclusion events. The principle reason for using seclusion was violence and aggression in the context of mental illness. It was also used for people who were at risk of, or who had previously absconded from the unit. A recovery approach and the use of the strengths model was fundamental to nurses’ way of working with patients in the unit. Nurses believed that the strengths process should be adapted to the person’s level of acuity and to their ability to engage in this approach in a real and tangible way. Seclusion continues to be a clinical management option in the unit that is the subject of this study. It is used when a person is so unwell that they cannot be managed in any other identified way. However, in many circumstances there are other options that could be explored so that the utmost consideration is given to the dignity, privacy and safety of that person.