The forensic mental health nurse: confusion, illusion or specialization? A scoping literature review

Date

2012-07-30

Authors

Devnick, Betty

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Abstract

There is considerable confusion surrounding the role and responsibilities of forensic mental health nurses. There are a plethora of definitions and inconsistencies in the use of the term making it difficult to determine whether or not forensic mental health (FMH) nursing can be considered a specialty within nursing. The aim of this project was to determine what is known about forensic mental health nursing and to broaden our understanding of the debate concerning specialization status of forensic mental health nursing. In particular, my intent was to explore whether confusion surrounds our understanding of the forensic mental health nurse, whether such a nurse exists only as an illusion, and whether, if it does in fact exist as a distinct entity, can forensic mental health nursing be supported and worthy of recognition as an area of nursing specialization. Eight themes were identified: environment, skill set, personal traits, competing philosophies, political and social influences, stress and burnout, interdisciplinary team fonctioning, and education. The literature reflects no consistent terminology used to refer to forensic mental health nurses, or the work they do. The theoretical underpinnings and scope of practice of forensic mental health nursing are unclear, resulting in debate about its appropriateness as a speciality area of practice. Because of these factors, forensic mental health nursing is effectively constrained within a global context that would promote dialogue, collaboration and research.

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Keywords

forensic, mental health, nurse, literature review, confusion, illusion, specialization

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