Supporting healthy eating practices in a forensic psychiatry rehabilitation setting

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To evaluate the confidence and education requirements of nursing staff to provide evidence-based nutrition advice and practical assistance to patients of a healthy living programme in a forensic psychiatry rehabilitation unit.


Participants completed semistructured interviews in pairs or individually to explore how their beliefs and attitudes about food and nutrition influenced their ability to support patients to plan and prepare healthy meals. Interview questions explored the nurses' perceptions about the nutrition education needs of patients, their own nutrition knowledge, their confidence to provide nutrition advice, previous nutrition training and their current need for further training. All participants also completed a nutrition knowledge questionnaire. Data from the Nutrition Knowledge Questionnaire were summarised descriptively. Thematic analysis was used to identify the key themes that emerged from the interview transcripts.


Nine of eleven potential participants took part in the study. Four main themes emerged from the semistructured interviews: ‘knowledge and experience’, ‘barriers to change’, ‘realistic expectations’ and ‘reducing barriers’. Nine questionnaires were completed and returned (100% response rate). The average score was 50% (11/22). Scores ranged between 9 (41%) and 15 (68%). Three respondents scored less than 50%.


This study highlights a need for dietitians in mental health settings to be involved not only with patient care but with staff education, to ensure that nursing staff receive the training and ongoing support necessary to protect and enhance the nutritional health of patients.

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