Bearing witness: The lived experience of sitting with patients

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Archives of Psychiatric Nursing


There is abundant literature focused on the practice of using hospital sitters as part of standard patient safety care. However, minimal attention has been paid to understanding the actual experiences of hospital workers as they sit with distressed and often agitated patients. With the overwhelming number of hospitalized patients who require sitters, attention must be paid to the healthcare workers' perspective. In this study a phenomenological approach was used to elicit the perceptions of these hospital sitters. Themes which emerged from the participant's lived experiences of sitting included: Accepting them, It's not about me, You're not alone, Taking it to heart, Lifts me up, and Supporting role, with an overarching focus of Bearing witness. Nursing implications for this study suggest that using advanced practice psychiatric nurses in med–surg settings may help to support the hiring and training of skilled sitters and lead to improved psychological nursing care. In addition, identifying health care workers who best "fit" the sitter profile may promote the role from one of safety surveillance to one of therapeutic engagement.