Nursing Students’ Perceptions of the Use of Physical Restraints in Acute Care Hospital Settings


  • Isaac Mallia Azzopardi
  • Paulann Grech


Attempts to justify the traditional use of physical restraints have commonly centred on the need to enhance patient safety. However, issues have been progressively raised in terms of ethical considerations, human rights and the potentially harmful effects of restraints. In this view, many countries have attempted to move away from the routine use of physical restraint by incorporating alternative methods. Although several studies have explored the perceptions of patients and nurses regarding the practice of patient restraint, knowledge regarding student nurses’ perceptions is limited.  The aim of this multiple case study was to explore the perceptions of this observed practice among six nursing students in their final year of a four-year undergraduate nursing program. These students had observed (but not participated in) the application of physical restraint to patients in acute care settings. A thematic analysis of the participant interviews and corresponding focus group data revealed the following: the perception that physical restraints are better than chemical restraints; consideration of, and access to alternative and less invasive measures; the need for proper restraining equipment; and training for nursing students in the physical restraint of patients. Recommendations focus on the need for training in the use of physical restraint methods and propose alternative measures to physical restraints.