Staff and ward factors associated with aggression development on an acute closed psychiatric ward: an experience sampling method study

I. Weltens*, M. Drukker, T. van Amelsvoort, M. Bak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aggression on psychiatric wards develops under influence of patient, staff and ward factors. Assessment of naturalistic derived staff and ward factors might increase better understanding of how aggressive incidents develop on psychiatric wards.ObjectiveStudying staff and ward factors including interactions between patients and nurses prior and after development of aggression, within a naturalistic closed ward setting.DesignA prospective naturalistic experience sampling method (ESM) study.Setting and participantsA high intensive care unit of a mental health institution in The Netherlands where 29 nurses answered beeps generated by an app during approximately 7 consecutive days with questions regarding their subjective feelings, ward atmosphere, location, interaction they had with patients and their colleagues and whether an incident took place.Main outcome measuresAssociations were established between different staff and ward factors and the occurrence of aggressive incidents on the ward.ResultsRisk for aggression was associated with the nurse being with a patient (OR=2.26, 95% CI 0.99 to 5.15, p=0.05). No significant association was found between discussing with the patient and setting a limit or physical absence of the nurse on the one hand and aggression on the other. More experienced nurses encountered more aggression (OR=3.5, 95% CI 1.32 to 8.26, p=0.01). Age and gender of the nurse were not associated with aggression development. Exceeding the maximum bed capacity was associated with a greater risk for aggression (OR=5.36, 95% CI 1.69 to 16.99, p=0.004). There was no significant association when analysing a more positive atmosphere on the ward or positive affect of the nurse, but negative affect of the nurses showed a trend for an association with less aggression.ConclusionAggression is a problem that should be managed from a multidimensional perspective. The quality of interaction between nurses and patients is crucial. Exceeding the maximum bed capacity is likely associated with more aggression.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere067943
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • psychiatry
  • mental health
  • health services administration & management


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