Screening physical health? Yes! But...: Nurses' views on physical health screening in mental health care

Brenda HAPPELL, DAVID SCOTT, Janette Nankivell, Chris PLATANIA-PHUNG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Aims and objectives: To explore nurses’ views on the role of nurses in screening and monitoring for physical care of consumers with serious mental illness, at a regional mental health care service.
Background: People with serious mental illness experience heightened incidence of preventable and treatable physical illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Screening and monitoring are considered universal clinical safeguards. Nurses can potentially facilitate systematic screening, but their views on physical health care practices are rarely investigated.
Design: Qualitative exploratory study.
Method: Focus group interviews with 38 nurses of a regional mental health care service district of Australia. To facilitate discussion, participants were presented with a screening system, called the Health Improvement Profile (HIP), as an exemplar of screening of physical health risks by nurses. Inductive data analysis and theme development were guided by a thematic analysis framework.
Results: Nurses argued that treatable and preventable physical health problems were common. Four main themes were identified: screening – essential for good practice; the policy-practice gap; ‘screening then what?’ and, is HIP the answer? Screening and monitoring were considered crucial to proper diagnosis and treatment, however, were not performed systematically or consistently. Nurse readiness for an enhanced role in screening was shaped by: role and responsibility issues, legal liability concerns, funding and staff shortages. Participants were concerned that lack of follow up would limit effectiveness of these interventions
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2286-2297
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number15-16
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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