The quality and quantity of staff-patient interactions as recorded by staff : a registry study of nursing documentation in two inpatient mental health wards

Kjellaug Klock Myklebust, Stål Bjørkly

Vitenskapelig artikkel
BMC Psychiatry, 2019
Online / DOI:

Background: Therapeutic staff-patient interaction is fundamental in psychiatric care. It is recognized as a key to healing in and of itself, or a premise to enhance psychiatric treatment adherence. Still, little is known about how these interactions are recorded in nursing documentation. The purpose of the study was to assess the quality and quantity of staff-patient interactions as recorded in progress notes in nursing documentation.
Methods: The study has an observational registry study design. A random sample of 3858 excerpts was selected from progress notes in 90 patient journals on an acute psychiatric unit and an open inpatient district psychiatric centre (DPC) in Norway. The Scale for the Evaluation of Staff-Patient Interactions in progress notes (SESPI) was used to assess the progress note excerpts. It is developed to assess the quality and quantity in excerpt descriptions of staff-patient interactions in terms of empathic attunement. Descriptive statistics were calculated for the total sample and for each ward separately. Ordinal and multinomial logistic regression were used to estimate control for shift type, staff education level, and type of hospital ward.
Results: Only 7.6% of the total number of excerpts (N = 3858) described staff-patient interactions sufficiently to analyze them in terms of attunement. Compared to the DPC, the acute ward reported more staff-patient interactions. The evening excerpts reported more successful types of attunement than those from the night shifts. Education level did not contribute significantly to our models.
Conclusion: These findings present a unique insight into the quality and quantity of mental health nursing documentation regarding staff-patient interactions. Therapeutic interactions where staff tried to attune to the patients were rarely described. However, this is the first study measuring nursing documentation with the SESPI, and more studies are required to validate the scale and our findings. One potential clinical implication of this research is the development of a scale that personnel in psychiatric wards can have for evaluation of the quality of their reporting practice with emphasis on staff-patient interactions. By regular use this may help keeping up emphasis on emphatic attunement in milieu treatment contexts.