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Suicide risk assessment: Clinicians’ confidence in their professional judgment

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Suicide risk assessment is a critical component of mental health practice for which the stakes are high and the outcomes uncertain. This research examines the consistency with which clinicians make determinations of suicide risk and factors influencing clinical confidence. Seventy-one social workers interviewed two standardized patients performing in scenarios depicting suicidal ideation, judged whether the patient required hospitalization, and completed standardized suicide risk assessment measures. Self-ratings and qualitative interviews explored participants’ confidence in their judgment of risk. Participants had highly divergent views regarding whether or not the risk of suicide was sufficiently high to require hospitalization. However, regardless of the ultimate decision reached, participants were equally confident when recommending either clinical course of action. The variation in risk assessment appraisals in this study, despite at times high rates of confidence in risk appraisals, speaks to the need for ongoing training, consultation, and increased decision support strategies.
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Keywords: Assessment; burnout; decision making; suicide risk

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada 2: Department of Innovation in Medical Education, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada 3: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada 4: Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

Publication date: January 2, 2016

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