BACKGROUND: United Kingdom legislation and clinical standards for schizophrenia challenge nurses to re-examine the support that they provide to carers. Nurses are in a key position to provide this support but may lack the necessary skills to do so. The training programme evaluated in the present study aimed to address this problem.
STUDY AIM: To evaluate change in clinical practice brought about by post-registration training for mental health nurses in supporting carers of people diagnosed with schizophrenia.
DESIGN/METHODS: The study was undertaken in collaboration between the Universities of Dundee and Glasgow, and Tayside National Health Service (NHS) Trust (Scotland). Respondents were nine nurses who completed training and then delivered a planned programme of support to carers. Data on nursing practice were gathered through semi-structured interviews with nurses before training and after providing support. Following the support intervention, carers also commented on the nurses' practice.
FINDINGS: Eight of the nine nurses reported changes in practice in five key areas: They built collaborative relationships with carers, developed a carer focused approach to their practice, acknowledged and supported the carer role, and made progress in identifying carer needs and accessing resources to meet these needs. Nurses experienced difficulties supporting carers who had mental health problems or previous negative experiences of services. Those who lacked community experience also found it difficult to adjust to working in a community setting. Although clinical supervision helped them to work through these difficulties, they remain largely unresolved.
CONCLUSIONS: Findings from this study indicate that appropriate training may enable nurses to improve the support provided to carers of people diagnosed with schizophrenia. This study represents an important stage in determining the nature of support offered to carers by nurses. While developed to help nurses to meet clinical standards set for schizophrenia in the UK, findings may have clinical significance for nurses in other countries.