Situation awareness: when nurses decide to admit or not admit a person with mental illness as an involuntary patient

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This paper will explore the application of situation awareness in nursing to determine its suitability as a framework to study how the decision to admit or not admit a person as an involuntary patient is made.


The decision by a specially qualified nurse to admit or not admit a person to a mental health facility against their will remains a central component of contemporary mental health legislation. The decision has an impact on a person's autonomy and human rights. Conversely, the decision to admit may facilitate urgent assessment and treatment and ensure the safety of the individual and others. Research highlights that decision-making in this context is challenging due to the multiple information sources and often incomplete information available to the clinician. Situation awareness is a concept used to explain how practitioners identify, use and make meaning of a multitude of factors and elements relevant to their practice.


Discussion paper.

Data sources.

A search of terms related to situation awareness and mental health nursing was conducted in the period 2000 – present.

Implications for nursing.

Exploring nurses decision-making using a situation awareness framework provides for a more nuanced understanding of nurses knowledge and skill when deciding to admit or not a person as an involuntary patient.


The concept of situation awareness provides a framework to better understand the decision-making process associated with the involuntary admission decision.

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