Intensive Care Unit Nurses' Beliefs About Delirium Assessment and Management

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Abstract

Delirium, the most frequent complication of hospitalized older adults, particularly in intensive care units (ICUs), can result in increased mortality rates and length of stay. Nurses are neither consistently identifying nor managing delirium in these patients. The purpose of this study was to explore ICU nurses' identification of delirium, actions they would take for patients with signs or symptoms of delirium, and beliefs about delirium assessment and management. In this cross-sectional study using qualitative descriptive methods guided by the theory of planned behavior, 30 ICU nurses' responses to patient vignettes depicting different delirium subtypes were explored. Descriptive and content analyses revealed that nurses did not consistently identify delirium; their actions varied in different vignettes. Nurses believed that they needed adequate staffing, balanced workload, interprofessional collaboration, and established policy and protocols to identify and manage delirium successfully. Research is needed to determine if implementing these changes increases recognition and decreases consequences of delirium.

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