Original Research

The effects of inpatient suicide on nurses at Weskoppies Hospital: A qualitative study

Nomthandazo Zola, Thandazile G. Mtetwa, Nadira Khamker
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 30 | a2231 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v30i0.2231 | © 2024 Nomthandazo Zola, Thandazile G. Mtetwa, Nadira Khamker | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 November 2023 | Published: 21 May 2024

About the author(s)

Nomthandazo Zola, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Thandazile G. Mtetwa, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Nadira Khamker, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Inpatient suicide is a serious adverse event in psychiatric wards. Suicide can cause severe trauma to both patients and health professionals, who may develop maladaptation with poor coping skills. Healthcare practitioners are the second victims and historically, this concept has been overlooked. The psychological effects and lack of support have not been sufficiently explored.

Aim: The emotional well-being and clinical practice of nurses who experienced inpatient suicide at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital was explored.

Setting: Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital, South Africa.

Methods: In this qualitative case study, 12 nurses who had lost a patient to inpatient suicide some time during their employment were purposefully selected. Data were collected through individual in-depth interviews, which were audio recorded and transcribed. The data were thematically analysed.

Results: Nurses were negatively affected by inpatient suicide resulting in a range of emotional and psychological effects, including fear, anger, sadness, flashbacks, guilt, and difficulty in coping. Clinical practice factors included being doubtful and extra vigilant. Although nurses received psychological support from the institution, they recommended in-service training with periodic reviews to prevent and manage inpatient suicide.

Conclusion: Inpatient suicide is a serious adverse event, and mental health practitioners become second victims. These events do not only impact the psychological well-being of nurses but also influence the clinical practice. Mental health practitioners should receive adequate training and support in preventing and handling inpatient suicide.

Contribution: This study provided insights into nurse’s perspectives on the effects of inpatient suicide and how they can be supported.


Keywords

inpatient; suicide; nurses; emotional well-being; clinical practice

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

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