Compliance Versus Adherence in Serious and Persistent Mental Illness
Vuckovich, Paula K.
Nursing Ethics 2010 January;17(1): 77-85
Failure to follow prescribed treatment has devastating consequences for those who are seriously and persistently mentally ill. Nurses, therefore, try to get clients to take psychotropic medication on a long-term basis. The goal is either compliance or adherence. Although current nursing literature has abandoned the term compliance because of its implications of coercion, in psychiatric nursing practice with patients suffering from serious long-term mental illness compliance and adherence are in fact different goals. The ideal goal is adherence, which requires the patient to be an active participant in the team. This goal is consistent with nurses' ethical values, but for such patients this is frequently unrealistic. If the person is severely psychotic, treatment may be involuntary and the goal compliance. Psychiatric nurses participate in involuntary treatment and thus should acknowledge the ethical implications of compliance as a goal and not obscure the issue by calling compliance adherence.
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