The effect of a training programme on school nurses’ knowledge, attitudes, and depression recognition skills: The QUEST cluster randomised controlled trial

Mark Haddad*, Vanessa Pinfold, Tamsin Ford, Brendan Walsh, Andre Tylee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Mental health problems in children and young people are a vital public health issue. Only 25% of British school children with diagnosed mental health problems have specialist mental health services contact; front-line staff such as school nurses play a vital role in identifying and managing these problems, and accessing additional services for children, but there appears limited specific training and support for this aspect of their role. Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness of a bespoke short training programme, which incorporated interactive and didactic teaching with printed and electronic resources. Hypothesized outcomes were improvements in school nurses’ knowledge, attitudes, and recognition skills for depression. Design: A cluster-randomised controlled trial. Participants and setting: 146 school nurses from 13 Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in London were randomly allocated to receive the training programme. Methods: School nurses from 7 PCTs (n = 81) were randomly allocated to receive the training intervention and from 6 PCTs (n = 65) for waiting list control. Depression detection was measured by response to vignettes, attitudes measured with the Depression Attitude Questionnaire, and knowledge by the QUEST knowledge measure. These outcomes were measured at baseline and (following training) 3 months and nine months later, after which nurses in the control group received the training programme. Results: At 3 months, 115 nurses completed outcome measures. Training was associated with significant improvements in the specificity of depression judgements (52.0% for the intervention group and 47.2% for the control group, P = 0.039), and there was a non-significant increase in sensitivity (64.5% compared to 61.5% P = 0.25). Nurses’ knowledge about depression improved (standardised mean difference = 0.97 [95% CI 0.58 to 1.35], P < 0.001); and confidence about their professional role in relation to depression increased. There was also a significant change in optimism about depression outcomes, but no change in tendency to defer depression management to specialists. At 9-month follow-up, improved specificity in depression identification and improved knowledge were maintained. Conclusions: This school nurse development programme, designed to convey best practice for the identification and care of depression, delivered significant improvements in some aspects of depression recognition and understanding, and was associated with increased confidence in working with young people experiencing mental health problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Attitude
  • Depression
  • Education
  • Knowledge
  • Mental health
  • Nurses
  • Professional
  • Public health


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