Pi Phi Chapter

An Interpretive Study of Undergraduate Students' Experiences of Assessing Suicidal Ideation

Nursing Research on the Green

2013 Abstract

Kimberly Nelson MSN,RN Martha Scheckel PhD,RN; Viterbo University and Michigan State University

  • Background:  It has been well established that suicide is a widespread public health problem. According to the World Health Organization (2012), suicide is among the top 20 causes of death in the world, with nearly one million individuals succumbing to it each year. International and national governmental agencies have developed goals, objectives, guidelines, and reports to support policy makers and healthcare providers with suicide detection, prevention, and management strategies(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,2012,2013;World Health Organization, 2012). Despite these suicide prevention efforts, the total disease burden from suicide is expected to rise from 1.8% to 2.4% by 2020 (Bertolote,2009)with the young, older-adult, and socially isolated at greater risk for suicide than other populations(World Health Organization, 2012).
  • Significance:  Amid the current climate of suicide, nurses are vital to the care of suicidal persons. Numerous authors have documented that nurses consistently report they do not have the knowledge or skills to provide therapeutic care for those at risk for suicide(Aflague & Fertz, 2010; Keogh, Doyle, & Morrissey, 2007; Valente & Saunders, 2004). Nurses' lack of competence in the care of suicidal persons occurs despite pre-licensure educaton and post-licensure continuing education about suicide assessment, prevention, and management strategies. Nurses' lack of competence in suicide care may limit their abilities to identify those at risk for suicide, inadvertently exacerbating suicide rates.
  • Purpose/objective:  The purpose of this qualitative study was to seek understandings about undergraduate nursing students' experiences of assessing suicidal ideation. The focus on students' assessment of suicidal ideation stems from the fact that questioning patients about suicidal ideation is the most commonly used approach to initiate a suicide risk assessment (Welton, 2007), and one that students are taught to use when learning to care for suicidal persons.
  • Methods/project:  Phenomenology and Hermeneutics
  • Results:  Specifically, this study demonstrates the negative influence patient documentation has on students'approach to suicide assessment, the challenges they experience when asking withdrawn patients about suicidal ideation, and the difficulties students have making appropriate clinical decisions about interventions for suicidal patients.
  • Clinical implications:  This study offers nurse educators novel insights into how students experience assessing suicidal ideation. These insights provide nurse educators with understandings about where to target pedagogical change that can improve teaching students suicide risk assessments and interventions to decrease suicide risk. Operationalizing these understandings hold important possibilities for improving how nursing students learn to care for suicidal persons.

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