Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2019

Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)



First Advisor

Amy Hite

Second Advisor

Cheryl Giefer


Motivation / Problem statement: While not all suicides are predictable, there are reasonable guidelines for identifying those individuals at risk and reducing risk for high-risk individuals. There is, however, an apparent gap in best practice as there is a continual climb in suicide statistics. The aim of this project is to survey emergency department nurses to discover their attitudes and understanding of suicide. The purpose is to better understand the phenomenon, and guide education initiatives, as nurse professionals are in a key position of prevention when working with these patients.

Methods / Procedure / Approach: A non-probability, purposive and voluntary sample (n=23) of all registered nurses in one emergency department were requested to participate in a survey. The response rate was 52%. A mixed approach was used to assess nurses’ attitudes and understanding of the patient with suicidal behavior. The quantitative section evaluated attitudes and understanding using five-point Likert scales. Attitude concepts measured included self-perceived competence, commitment, empathy and irritation. The qualitative section evaluated attitudes and understanding based on published statistics, risk factors and warning signs. Questions concerning honesty in the survey and interest in education concerning the suicidal patient were included.

Results / Findings / Product: The understanding of the suicidal patient proved significantly less than positive. Although the reported attitudes toward the patient with suicidal behavior were midway between negative and positive, emergency department nurses were less committed, less empathetic and more irritated with patients who carried risk factors for suicide. The nurses had a more negative attitude toward patients with mental health diagnoses and an even more negative attitude toward patients with substance misuse diagnoses. Of the 12 who replied to this survey, eight designated that their responses should be “accepted as fully honest.” Two indicated that their responses should be “accepted but with some reservation.” Two did not select a response. Though the simple majority had some degree of interest in education in suicidology, half of the respondents identified as having no interest to little degree of interest.

Conclusion / Implications: While the survey tool is not factorially pure, the results are consistent with other research. Nurse education and discussion of current challenges may be discerning as attitudes and understanding affect safety and quality of care.

Keywords: Attitude, Nurse, Suicide, Understanding