Date of Graduation

Fall 12-17-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)


School of Nursing and Health Professions




Executive Leader DNP

First Advisor

Dr. Capella



Introduction: Patient agitation is a phenomenon that presents itself to the emergency department (ED) on a daily basis. Agitation can manifest from an array of physical or psychological complaints. Behavioral health patients presenting with agitation is a growing subset of the total agitation population within EDs. A better understanding of behavioral health patient agitation in the ED setting is needed to guide best practices in treating this fragile population with therapeutic, patient-centered care.

Methods: A review of literature was conducted on agitation and behavioral health in ED settings, using the search terms emergency department, agitation, restraints, sedation, and behavioral health. Peer peer-reviewed research articles published from 2015 through-2020 were returned from the CINAHL, Scopus, and APA PsycInfo databases. Nine articles were selected for inclusion in this review.

Results: Agitation is a patient presentation in the ED that requires immediate attention to ensure patient, staff, and health safety. Current interventions depend heavily on coerced de-escalation that should be used only as a last resort. New practice guidelines, adoption of an agitation scale, and a new framework for providing care are proposed for beneficial change.

Discussion: This literature review provides evidence that the current state of care for the agitated behavioral health patient needs is inadequate. A therapeutic, humane approach is needed to promote beneficial health outcomes to this marginalized patient population.