A study from the Emergency Nurses Association reveals three factors that significantly contribute to a shortened ED stay by a behavioral health patient, according to a news release. Findings suggest that nurses who feel they are adequately prepared to care for behavioral health patients, the availability of nurses trained in behavioral health and adequate resources are associated with shorter lengths of stay.
“U.S. Emergency Nurses’ Perceptions of Challenges and Facilitators in the Management of Behavioral Health Patients in the Emergency Department: A Mixed-Methods Study,” appears online in the Australasian Emergency Nursing Journal. It explores the factors affecting length of stay and assesses nurses’ perceptions of their skills, beliefs or attitudes and confidence in caring for this population. “This is clinically significant because a prolonged length of stay compromises care for patients with behavioral complaints and potentially impacts the delivery of care to other patients in the ED,” ENA president Matthew F. Powers, MS, BSN, RN, MICP, CEN, said in a news release.
In the study, 57% of participants reported that their hospitals have no inpatient psychiatric unit, while more than 50% reported no dedicated ED area for behavioral health patients and nearly one quarter did not have a standard protocol for managing the care of behavioral health patients.
“Findings suggest that shorter lengths of stay are associated with higher levels of perceived nursing confidence/preparation to care for this population, along with the availability of appropriate resources and protocols/standards of care,” the authors wrote. “Longer lengths of stay are associated with an absence of dedicated inpatient space for managing the care of these patients.”
Emergency nurses said little tailored education, resources and treatment options are available that are necessary for the delivery of safe, effective care to behavioral health patients.
More customized training in behavioral healthcare, especially the use of behavioral health nurses, “along with additional practice guidelines and protocols may help to improve emergency nurses’ confidence and caring proficiency, thereby potentially moving patients through the assessment and disposition process faster and with more surety,” Lisa A. Wolf, PhD, RN, CEN, FAEN, and co-authors wrote.
The authors hope the study leads to changes in addressing the needs of behavioral health patients in emergency departments.
“Findings from this study and others may drive funding and policy initiatives to provide more effective treatment options and resources to care for this patient population in both acute and maintenance phases,” they wrote.
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