Clukey, Lory

Committee Member

McNeill, Jeanette

Committee Member

Sullivan, Katherine


Nursing Education


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



231 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Patients with mental illness receive care in acute medical facilities for medical and acute psychiatric problems. Non-psychiatric nurses are responsible for the care of patients with mental illness regardless of their training in psychiatric nursing skills. The purpose of this study was to inform the nursing profession and nursing education of the needs of non-psychiatric nurses in caring for patients with mental illness. This study also sought to discover non-psychiatric nurses’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. This research study used qualitative descriptive phenomenology to explore the research phenomenon. Eight participants were interviewed virtually using a semi-structured interview guide with interview prompts to explore participants’ lived experiences. Data analysis was accomplished using Colaizzi’s (1978) seven-step analysis method. Findings from the first research question revealed five themes with an overarching theme of barriers to caring for patients with mental illness. A significant barrier in caring for patients with mental illness was the lack of mental health resources. In some cases, patients were housed in the emergency department for extended periods of time as the staff searched for a psychiatric facility that would accept the patient. Nurses and nursing leaders need to take an active role in educating legislators and policymakers on the need for improved funding for psychiatric services and the significant issue resulting from using the emergency department as an entry point for mental health treatment. This study added to the literature on evidence-based strategies to inform the nursing profession and nursing education in nursing care for patients with mental illness. Findings from this study indicated multiple strategies that support non-psychiatric nurses in caring for this population. This study also explored the stressors and perceived preparation of non-psychiatric nurses working during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study findings indicated a nurse’s responsibility to enforce visitation restrictions during the pandemic, even for patients who did not have COVID-19, was a major stressor, potentially resulting in moral distress for the nurses caring for patients during the pandemic. Also consistent with the literature on nurses caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic was the concern for the short- and long-term effects of psychological stress, anxiety, burnout, exhaustion, and depression.

Degree type


Degree Name




Rights Statement

Copyright is held by the author.