Creating and maintaining a safe environment is an important part of care in psychiatric wards. The results of previous studies indicated that some features of the physical environment facilitate the ward’s safety. The experiences of people who are most likely to be present in these environments can be the best source for identifying these features. Therefore, this study was conducted to explain patients’ and employees’ perceptions toward the features of a safe physical environment in psychiatric wards.
In this exploratory qualitative descriptive study, seven patients at discharge time and nineteen employees working in psychiatric wards were interviewed about their experiences in psychiatric wards and 84 hours of field observation was done. The data were analyzed using a qualitative content analysis approach according to the method proposed by Graneheim and Lundman.
The results showed a safe physical environment in psychiatric wards meant “having an accident-free environment”. This theme was abstracted from two main categories included “Accidents prevention through design” and “having a natural life environment”, which, according to the experience of the staff, is required to balance the two. The subcategories of “having the design of accidents prevention” were “eliminating or modifying accident-causing objects”, “wards based on the characteristics of the patients” and “conditions for facilitating staff performance” and the subcategories of “having a natural life environment were “meaningful activities", “healthy and pleasant conditions” and “preserved privacy”.
According to the results of the study, it is necessary to create a physical environment free of accidents and at the same time to meet the daily needs of patients in order to prevent physical and psychological damage to patients and staff in psychiatric wards.