Blackburn 2016

Blackburn, J., McKenna, B., Jackson, B., Hitch, D., Benitez, J., McLennan, C., & Furness, T. (2016). Educating Mental Health Clinicians About Sensory Modulation to Enhance Clinical Practice in a Youth Acute Inpatient Mental Health Unit: A Feasibility Study. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 37(7), 517-525

Contact corresponding author: Brian McKenna


There is an emergence of literature describing effective sensory modulation (SM) interventions to de-escalate violence and aggression among mental health inpatients. However, the evidence is limited to adult settings, with the effect of SM in youth acute ettings unknown. Yet, before SM may be used as a de-escalation intervention in youth acute settings, multidisciplinary staff need to be educated about and supported in the clinical application of SM. In the current study, an online SM education package was developed to assist mental health staff understand SM. This was blended with action learning sets (ALS), small group experiential opportunities consisting staff and consumers to learn about SM resources, and the support of SM trained nurses. The aims of the study were to evaluate the effectiveness of this SM education intervention in (a) transferring knowledge of SM to staff, and (b) translating this knowledge into practice in a youth acute inpatient mental health unit. A mixed methods research design with an 11-item pre- and post-education questionnaire was used along with three-month follow-up focus groups. The SM education improved understanding about SM (all 11-items p ≤ 0.004, r ≥ 0.47). Three months after SMeducation, four themes evident in the focus group data emerged about the practice and process of SM; (1) translating of learning into practice, (2) SM in practice, (3) perceptions of SM benefits, and (4) limitations of SM. A blended SM education process enhanced clinical practice in the unit, yet participants were mindful of limitations of SM in situations of distress or escalating agitation.