Date of Publication


Project Team

Project Advisor: Dr. Brenda Hamel-Bissell and Faculty Member: Margaret Aitken


Sensory processing is the way the nervous system receives, organizes, and understands sensory information gained through our body’s senses and physical environment. The deprivation of sensory processing, or the inability of one’s nervous system to use meaningful sensations, can lead to negative outcomes such as anxiety, stress, depression, withdrawal and reduced motivation, or agitation and disturbed behavior. Dr. Ayres' Sensory Integration Theory was used as the guiding framework for this project. Research literature indicates that sensory modulated approaches are an effective treatment approach for patients who are distressed, anxious, agitated, or potentially aggressive, and can be used as an alternative to more coercive actions such as seclusion and restraint. It has also demonstrated that sensory modulated approaches can be helpful for people with various psychiatric diagnoses such as anxiety, depression, mania, psychosis, and post-traumatic stress disorders. The aim of this project was to provide an educational in-service to psychiatric inpatient staff members about the use of sensory modulated approaches as an additional preventive tool for mental health patients. A post evaluation was provided to identify the effectiveness of the educational in-service. Participants of the in-service included sixteen (16) staff members and ten (10) undergraduate nursing students. All participants who completed the post evaluation reported the rating of helpfulness of sensory integration approaches to their current practice. All staff members reported it as very helpful, while eighty-six percent (86%) of students thought it was very helpful to their current practice. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of the staff reported the in-service as very helpful for increasing their knowledge of sensory resources, and eighty-six percent (86%) of the students reported it as very helpful. The favorable outcomes demonstrate success in providing staff education. Increased knowledge and understanding allow staff members to adopt the sensory modulated approach to further help reduce behavioral disturbances, empower staff and patients to build positive relationships, and provide alternative strategies to more coercive practices such as seclusion or restraints. Further research on the effect of this educational in-service on the actual implementation of sensory modulated approach is needed to support the true effectiveness of this project. Future implications for advanced nursing practice, education, research, and health policy are to promote and implement this alternative approach, provide evidence based data to improve the quality of clinical practice, and analyze the data collected to improve future practices and overall patient outcomes.

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