Development and Testing of Tools to Assess Physical Restraint Use Academic Article uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: To implement best practice in restraint use, healthcare providers and decision makers require current, accurate, and easily accessible information about restraint practices in their setting. There is a need for a reliable and valid instrument that is feasible for use in these settings to rapidly assess physical restraint use. METHOD: Two instruments to assess physical restraint use were developed and tested: an observation tool and a chart audit. The instruments were tested in complex continuing care units and rehabilitation units at two healthcare organizations. The restraint use observation tool was administered by trained observers in a series of five observations over a 2-week period. Chart audits were conducted for a sample of residents. Inter-rater agreement of the observation tool and chart audit was assessed. Point prevalence estimates were obtained for each site. The time required to use the observation tool and complete chart audits as well as the comparability of findings from the two data sources were described. FINDINGS: Restraint use observations were completed for 289 patients and chart audits were completed for 207 patients. Prevalence and patterns of restraint use varied between sites and across time periods. Observations took an average of 2.6 (Site A) and 0.6 (Site B) minutes per patient. There was excellent inter-rater agreement for most items on the observation tool with the exception of whether or not the patient was able to release or loosen the restraint. There was significant concordance but as expected, not complete agreement between paired estimates of prevalence using the observational tool and the chart audit. CONCLUSION: The observation and chart audit tools are feasible to use and reliably assess physical restraint use in healthcare organizations. The patient's physical capacity to move independently, the patient's waking status, and the restraint's restriction of mobility are items that should be added to the observation tool. The tools are complementary and should be used in tandem to capture the multifaceted complexity of restraint use in health service organizations.


  • Edwards, Nancy
  • Danseco, Evangeline
  • Heslin, Kathleen
  • Ploeg, Jenny
  • Santos, Josephine
  • Stansfield, Melanie
  • Davies, Barbara

publication date

  • June 2006