Patients' experiences of psychiatric care in emergency departments: A secondary analysis

Barbara Harris, Ross Beurmann, Samantha Fagien, Mona M. Shattell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The number of psychiatric emergencies presenting to EDs in the United States continues to rise. Evidence suggests that psychiatric ED care encounters can have less than optimal outcomes, and result in stress for providers.The primary aim of this study is to describe the perceptions of ED visits by persons experiencing emotional distress, identifying themes among these that may guide nursing interventions that minimize stress and optimize outcomes in the treatment of psychiatric emergency. This secondary analysis used a qualitative, phenomenological method to analyze a de-identified data set originally collected in a study of experiences of psychiatric emergency in a community based crisis management setting.Findings consist of three major themes: "Emergency rooms are cold and clinical", "They talk to you like you're a crazy person", and "You get put away against your will". An overarching theme through all three is the influence of RN communication, both positive and negative, on patient perceptions of their ED encounters.While nurse-patient communication is basic to all areas of practice, it may be a low priority in the urgent and chaotic context of the ED. However, our findings suggest that increased attention to timely, empathic and validating communication and openness to the patient's reality may decrease severity of symptoms, optimize outcomes, and decrease provider stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-19
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Emergency Nursing
StatePublished - May 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Emergency psychiatric service
  • Health communication
  • Mentally ill persons
  • Nurse patient relationship
  • Patient centered care
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency

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