What challenges do staff in psychiatric inpatient settings face? The development of the Staff Emotions, Attributions, Challenges and Coping Scale (SEACCS)

  • Nadia McColgan

Student thesis: Unknown


Background: Psychiatric inpatient staff members work with arguably the most challenging service users. However, reference to these challenges often does not go beyond 'challenging behaviour', offering no insight into the actual presentation, thus preventing formulation of the perceived challenges, or subsequent interventions. Moreover, studies have shown that staff responses to challenging presentations can impact on both the staff member and the service user. In particular, staff causal attributions have been shown to impact on their therapeutic response (Apel and Bar-Tal, 1996), as well as being associated with staff emotions (Colson et al., 1987). In turn, the emotional response has been found to be associated with coping, both of which have also been found to effect staff behavioural response, as well as staff members' psychological well-being (Wykes and Whittington, 1998). However, there have been limited studies assessing these relationships with psychiatric inpatient staff. This may be due to the lack of assessment tools developed for this staff group to measure these particular domains. A specifically designed tool would enable consistent assessment to take place to build on our theoretical knowledge of psychiatric inpatient staff members' perceived challenges, and their responses to them, as well as highlight specific areas within these domains where further staff training and support is required.Aims: The first aim of the study was to explore psychiatric staff's views on the challenges they faced when working with service users in inpatient settings, their emotional responses, attributions, and coping strategies about those challenges and then to develop a measure which would accurately capture these (the SEACCS). The second aim was to assess the reliability of the new scale as well as explore relationships within the SEACCS. Finally, the third aim was to assess content and face validity, as well as conduct preliminary psychometric investigations of the construct validity of the newly developed measure.Method: The study was conducted using various methods across three phases. In order to generate items for the SEACCS, a systematic review of the relevant literature and semi-structured interviews took place during the first phase. Secondly, the results of Phase I were combined in order to develop and construct the SEACCS. The third phase involved a postal survey of the SEACCS (including re-test), followed by psychometric investigations to scrutinise the items, explore the reliability, and construct validity of the SEACCS.Results: Twenty three studies were included in the systematic review. The results highlighted inconsistent measurement and findings of the domains concerned. Seven multi-disciplinary staff interviews took place. Thematic analysis was used to conduct four separate analyses focusing on each of the research questions. Several themes and sub-themes were found. Themes such as: 'Engagement', 'Attributions of controllability', and 'Behavioural responses'. Findings from the review, thematic analyses, and consultation groups (content and face validity) were combined in order to develop the 64 item SEACCS. A total of 76 multi-disciplinary psychiatric inpatient staff members completed the SEACCS, 15 of which completed re-tests. No items were removed following item scrutiny assessments. Preliminary psychometric investigations indicated good reliability, significant relationships across domains within the SEACCS, and partial construct validity with the GHQ-28.Conclusion: The results of the current study provide the first step in the development and construction of a clinically relevant tool that can be used to assess these domains. The methodological limitations and clinical implications are considered, and future directions for research in this area are suggested.
Date of Award31 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorGillian Haddock (Supervisor) & Katherine Berry (Supervisor)


  • challenging presentations
  • psychiatric staff
  • staff training
  • inpatient staff
  • development of questionnaire
  • staff attributions
  • severe mental illness
  • staff emotions
  • staff coping
  • psychiatric inpatients
  • challenging behaviour
  • difficult patients
  • psychosis

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