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Nursing Research and Practice
Volume 2011, Article ID 650765, 4 pages
Research Article

Nurses' Psychosocial Barriers to Suicide Risk Management

Research and Education, Department of Veterans Affairs, 11301 Wilshire Boulevard, Room 6235, Los Angeles, CA 90073, USA

Received 24 December 2010; Accepted 25 March 2011

Academic Editor: Leana Ria Uys

Copyright © 2011 Sharon Valente. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Suicide remains a serious health care problem and a sentinel event tracked by The Joint Commission. Nurses are pivotal in evaluating risk and preventing suicide. Analysis of nurses' barriers to risk management may lead to interventions to improve management of suicidal patients. These data emerged from a random survey of 454 oncology nurses' attitudes, knowledge of suicide, and justifications for euthanasia. Instruments included a vignette of a suicidal patient and a suicide attitude questionnaire. Results. Psychological factors (emotions, unresolved grief, communication, and negative judgments about suicide) complicate the nurse's assessment and treatment of suicidal patients. Some nurses ( 𝑛 = 1 2 2 ) indicated that euthanasia was never justified and 11 were unsure of justifications and evaluated each case on its merits. Justifications for euthanasia included poor symptom control, poor quality of life, incurable illness or permanent disability, terminal illness, and terminal illness with inadequate symptom control or impending death, patient autonomy, and clinical organ death. The nurses indicated some confusion and misconceptions about definitions and examples of euthanasia, assisted suicide, and double effect. Strategies for interdisciplinary clinical intervention are suggested to identify and resolve these psychosocial barriers.