Ambulance clinicians’ responsibility when encountering patients in a suicidal process
Hammarback, S., Holmberg, M., Gustin, L.W., & Bremer, A.
Background Even though the traditional focus in emergency care is on life-threatening medical crisis, ambulance clinicians frequently encounter patients with mental illness, including suicidal ideation. A suicide is preceded by a complex process where most of the suicidal ideation is invisible to others. However, as most patients seek healthcare in the year before suicide, ambulance clinicians could have an important part to play in preventing suicide, as they encounter patients in different phases of the suicidal process. Aim The aim of this study was to describe ambulance clinicians’ conceptions of responsibility when encountering patients in a suicidal process. Research design A qualitative inductive design using a phenomenographic approach was used. Participants and research context Twenty-seven ambulance clinicians from two regions in southern Sweden were interviewed. Ethical considerations The study was approved by the Swedish Ethical Review Authority. Findings Three categories of descriptions captured a movement from responding to a biological being to responding to a social being. Conventional responsibility was perceived as a primary responsibility for emergency care. In conditional responsibility, the patient’s mental illness was given only limited importance and only if certain conditions were met. Ethical responsibility was perceived to have its primary focus on the encounter with the patient and listening to the patient’s life story. Conclusions An ethical responsibility is favourable regarding suicide prevention in ambulance care, and competence development in mental illness and conversation skills could enable ambulance clinicians to have conversations with patients about suicidal ideation.