Nurses practising in mental health are faced with challenging decisions concerning confidentiality if a patient is deemed a potential risk to self or others, because releasing pertinent information pertaining to the patient may be necessary to circumvent harm. However, decisions to withhold or disclose confidential information that are inappropriately made may lead to adverse outcomes for stakeholders, including nurses and their patients. Nonetheless, there is a dearth of contemporary research literature to advise nurses in these circumstances. Cognitive Continuum Theory presents a single-system intuitive-analytical approach to examining and understanding nurse cognition, analogous to the recommended single-system approach to decision-making in mental health known as structured clinical judgement. Both approaches incorporate cognitive poles of wholly intuition and analysis and a dynamic continuum characterised by a ‘common sense’ blending of intuitive and analytical cognition, whereby cues presented to a decision-maker for judgement tasks are weighed and assessed for relevance. Furthermore, Cognitive Continuum Theory promotes the importance of determining pattern recognition and functional relations strategies, which can be used to understand the operationalisation of nurse cognition.


Cognitive Continuum Theory, Confidentiality, Mental health, Psychiatric nursing, Risk assessment, Structured clinical judgement

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