To describe the perceptions of nursing staff on the use of physical restraints in institutional care of older people.
Physical restraint of older people is a common practice in institutional care in many countries, including Finland. As the nursing staff plays a major role in deciding on physically restraining older patient and in the care the patient receives, new research information is needed on the nursing staff's attitudes towards the use of physical restraints.
A qualitative study.
The data consisted of focus group interviews with staff and supervisors. There were four focus groups: nurses, practical nurses, institutional assistants and care supervisors.
In addition to traditional methods of restraint, such as belts and locked doors, the nursing staff also used indirect restraint by removing the patient's mobility aid. Factors contributing to the use of restraints included requests by the patient's family members to use restraint to ensure the patient's safety and social reasons, in the form of lack of legislation on the use of restraint. The use of restraints caused feelings of guilt among the nursing staff, but on the other hand, it was seen as a way of making older patient feel more secure.
There is a need for official guidelines on the use of physical restraints in care of older people. This would require the entire nursing team to make a joint decision on the use of restraints and constant reassessment of the need of using restraints.
The results of the study provide nursing staff and supervisors a chance to ethically deliberate and evaluate their own work. Alternative practices for physical restraint can also be directly applied to practical care of older people.