Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Suicide Assessment and Nurses: What Does the Evidence Show?

Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Suicide Assessment and Nurses: What Does the Evidence Show?

Article excerpt

Globally, nearly 1 million people die each year at their own hands, by an act of suicide. In the United States, more than thirty thousand people die annually by suicide. Suicide is a preventable public health concern (World Health Organization TWHOl. 2014). To put this number in perspective, 58,000 service people lost their lives during the Vietnam War (1968-1973); during the same period, 220,000 U.S. citizens lost their lives to suicide (Institute of Medicine flOMl. 2002). Another statistic of concern is that the number of suicides exceeds homicides by a ratio of three to two, a ratio that has remained constant over the past 100 years (Minino & Smith. 2001). There is an abundance of literature on the topic of suicide and suicidal behavior, a point that exemplifies the complexity of suicide as a topic. The suicide literature also includes evaluation and outcomes of prevention programs.

Primary prevention programs are aimed at preventing people from attempting and completing suicide. These types of programs utilize public education and awareness messages or campaigns targeting people in the community. Crisis telephone lines, and other resources available for suicidal persons reaching out for help, are considered primary prevention strategies. Educational training programs aimed at health professionals are also part of primary prevention strategies. The goal of secondary prevention is to keep those that have previously attempted suicide from going on to complete suicide.

The majority of people who complete suicide have visited a healthcare provider in the previous month of their suicide (Luoma. Martin & Pearson. 2002): therefore, it is logical to target healthcare providers to intervene and watch for warning signs of mental health disorders. Mann and colleagues (2005) reported in their systematic review of the suicide prevention literature that educating physicians about depression recognition and treatment decreases suicide rates.

Registered nurses (RNs) are considered "front-line" in suicide prevention, at both primary and secondary levels, because of their significant amount of contact with patients (Berlim. Perizzolo. Leiderman. Fleck & Joiner. 2007). Nurses routinely treat patients that are considering suicide, but these patients are rarely identified as at-risk. Perhaps as a result, suicide is the second leading sentinel event in hospitals (Neville & Roan. 2013). In the National Patient Safety Goals for 2014, The Joint Commission, a national organization providing accreditation to health care facilities, has called for hospitals to conduct risk assessments for patients at risk for completing suicide (Joint Commission. 2014).

In this article, we will describe current efforts in the field of suicide assessment training for nurses. Topics found in the literature include beliefs and attitudes of nurses towards suicide and suicide attempters; general lack of knowledge related to suicide assessment; and suicide assessment training programs that have been used by nurses. We will present the main themes identified from review of the suicide literature and conclude with recommendations appropriate for any nurse to improve nursing assessment of potentially suicidal patients.

State of the Science: WhatDo We Know About Suicide Assessment Training for Nurses?

Search Strategy

The terms 'suicide prevention training for nurses,' 'suicide prevention training for RNs,' 'suicide prevention and training for registered nurses,' 'healthcare professionals and suicide prevention training,' 'training of nurses in suicide prevention,' and other various combinations of nurses, training, and suicide prevention phrasing were all used to find relevant literature We utilized the following search engines: PubMed, CINHAL, Psyc-INFO, MEDLINE, and MEDLINE Plus under the categories of Nursing, Health Sciences and Social Sciences. To provide a current review, the search was limited to articles published within the past seven years. …

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