Suicide is a rising epidemic in today’s contemporary society. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally nearly one million people die each year at their hands, by an act of suicide and more than thirty thousand people die annually in the United States alone. Since the risk for suicide is largely determined on a continuum, the severity of suicidality can vary with individual circumstances. Because of this realization, nurses play a pivotal role in suicide prevention because they often have the greatest number of opportunities to identify and recognize suicidal patients and tendencies in the health care arena.

Suicide Screening Strategies

While many hospitals are working diligently to comply with the Joint Commission in implementing suicide-screening questions, there is limited evidence available to guide suicide risk initiatives in the inpatient clinical setting. To help resolve this issue, researchers developed the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions to Everyone in Medical Settings tool (asQ’em), aimed to identify suicidality in the inpatient units and subspecialties. The asQ’em two-item screening tool is a unique instrument designed specifically for nurses to administer to medical-surgical patients at risk for suicidal tendencies and predispositions. Due to the straightforward nature of the asQ’em suicide-screening questionnaire, researchers have found it to be an efficacious method in properly recognizing suicidality in susceptible patients across the health care setting.

Applicability in the Clinical Setting

Although suicide risk assessments are an essential tool in the hospital setting, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting the underutilization of suicide screenings among medical-surgical patients. As a psychiatric-mental health nurse, I understand the importance of assessing patients for suicidality because it provides me with vital information on how to properly care for patients suffering from suicidal thoughts.

The asQ’em suicide-screening questionnaire is a tremendous tool that can be easily implemented in all inpatient units because it consists of two questions that determine if patients are at risk for suicide as a result of their present thoughts or past behaviors. Based on their answers, nurses can consequently determine if the patient exhibits enough significant emotional distress to ensure proper safety measures are in place before subsequent inpatient treatment and stabilization.

As a result of this realization, increased efforts must be made to ensure suicide-screening tools are readily available to not only uncover meaningful clinical data but also promote safe holistic nursing practices to preserve the health and well-being of suicidal patients nationwide.

Jonathan V. Llamas, DNP (c), BSN, RN-BC, PHN

Jonathan V. Llamas, DNP (c), BSN, RN-BC, PHN, is an ANCC board certified registered nurse and freelance writer from Los Angeles, CA. He received his BSN degree from West Coast University - North Hollywood in 2013 and is currently pursuing his DNP degree at Loma Linda University to become a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. In addition to this, he currently functions as an acute psychiatric registered nurse at Kaiser Permanenete - Los Angeles with previous inpatient experience in both the ER and ICU settings.

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