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‘I hate the idea of restraining patients’


Do you have any advice for this student nurse?

“I’m in my first year and planning on studying mental health nursing next year. Having suffered from depression myself I really want to be able to help others going through the same.

“I was so excited about starting branch-specific lectures and placements next year but having just completed my first mental health exposure placement I’m not so sure.

“On my second day on the ward I witnessed my first restraint and it was horrific. The patient was so angry and even though the staff talked to him and reassured him throughout and I understand that they had to do something to reduce the risk, it was awful to see a person being pinned down against their will. I know I don’t have to be a part of it as a student but I’m now asking myself if I really want to go into a career where I have to do that.

“Is restraint really necessary? How can I avoid ever having to do it and still be a mental health nurse?”



Please use the comments section below to share your advice


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Readers' comments (4)

  • It's a last resort. Always a last resort. I've only witnessed restraint once and believe me no one wanted to do it but sometimes no amount of reassurance is gonna keep someone safe. From what I saw the staff HAD to take someone into a de-escalation suite because they were simply so distressed that they weren't listening to what was being said to that and they were going to cause themselves great injury if we did not intervene. It's a hard thing to do and always debrief after. No one likes doing it.

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  • Less likely in EMI care but it would be counter-productive surely to choose a path just to avoid addressing a fear. Discuss your concerns with your mentor or tutor. You are not the first person to feel this way- I also hated it but know why I had to do it.

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  • As the first commentor said, it is a last resort. Think of it like any other therapeutic intervention- you try the lowest option, and if it doesn't work, you step up and try something else.
    Restraint properly applied works the same way, you try everything to avoid restraining the patients. That means that you could actually be quite good in mental health, if you're willing to stay and talk with the patient, try other de-escalation, do anything to prevent having to restrain them. The only catch then is recognising when restraint is the only course of action left to keep the patient and the ward safe. It sounds like you do realise that, so keep telling yourself about the process that happened first to get to that point.
    And remember to go back to the patient afterwards, when everything's calmed down- ask them how they feel, whether they were hurt, what might help things to go smoother next time.
    No good RMN wants to restrain anyone, it's just a tool in our box like medication or any other therapeutic intervention, to be applied at the right time.
    And as the second commentor said, discuss your worries with a mentor or tutor. If the dislike of restraint is the only thing making you uncertain about mental health nursing, that's something you can work on. Use any support mechanisms your university has to discuss your worries and talk to other people, you're bound to find other students feeling the same way.

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  • As a qualified mental Health Nurse of seven years I have only needed to restrain a patient on two occasions, both very traumatic not only for the patient but for staff having to do it. "This tool in our box" as mentioned above is one I would happily lose. However as some patients do not want to be in hospital or do not want to take prescribed medications i fear it is always going to be needed for certain ward areas and only as a last resort. The staff involved that I have worked with see this as a failure when discussing it at debriefings later. This will hopefully mean a better understanding of that persons needs in the future. Advanced statements by the patients also help with future incidents and I would recommend these when patients become well.

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