Public health nurses' perception of their roles in relation to psychotropic drug use by adolescents: a phenomenographic study

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Aims and objectives.

The purpose of the paper was to describe the perceptions of public health nurses' roles in relation to psychotropic drug use by adolescents.


Mental health problems among adolescents are documented with studies indicating an increased use of psychotropic drugs. In Norway, care for such adolescents may fall naturally into the remit of public health nurses.


A phenomenographic approach was used to analyse the data.


A qualitative interview study was made of 20 Norwegian public health nurses, strategically chosen using phenomenographic methodology.


The public health nurses described three categories: discovering public health nurses who become aware of psychotropic drug use in the health dialogue with adolescents and choose to either act or not act in relation to psychotropic drug use. Those public health nurses who take action are cooperating public health nurses, who cooperate with adolescents, their families, schools and others. If cooperation has been established, supporting public health nurses teach and support the adolescent in relation to psychotropic drug use.


The public health nurses who do not act can hinder or delay further treatment. Public health nurses need to acquire knowledge about psychotropic drugs, to fulfil their role in nursing mental health problems among adolescents and the increasing use of psychotropic drugs.

Relevance to clinical practice.

The results demonstrated that public health nurses, working in health centres and schools, have the responsibility and the opportunity to identify young people struggling with mental health problems and psychotropic drug use as well as teach and support significant others, e.g. parents and siblings. Intervention studies are needed with regard to health promotion programmes aimed at fortifying young people's mental health.

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