Introduction: Psychiatric intensive care units (PICU) are small wards, designed for the most difficult-to-manage patients. They have higher levels of nursing and other staff, are often locked, and sometimes have facilities for seclusion. Although PICU staff are often confronted with aggressive behavior, resulting in higher usage of coercive measures, there is need to increase understanding of the necessary infrastructure and treatment policy for successfully reducing seclusion and restraint.
Aim: To investigate whether patients transferred to a newly developed PICU, focused on the effective and non-coercive management of disruptive behavior, are secluded and restrained less than during earlier stays in a psychiatric unit.
Method: The effect of the newly developed PICU on reducing seclusion was evaluated in eight patients, six of whom had been diagnosed with a severe form of borderline personality disorder. The number of days in seclusion during the period before admission to the PICU was compared to the number of days in seclusion after admission to the PICU.
Results: After patients’ admission to PICU, the use of seclusion was almost completely eliminated, falling from 40% of admission days spent in seclusion before transfer to the PICU to 0.1% during their stay at the PICU.
Conclusion: When a special non-coercive infrastructure and treatment policy is applied at a PICU, seriously disturbed patients can be treated without coercive measures.