Feasibility of nurses measuring gait speed in older community-dwelling Emergency Department patients

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Gait speed assessment is a rapid, simple and objective measure for predicting risk of unfavorable outcomes which may provide better prognostic and reliable information than existing geriatric ED (Emergency Department) screening tools. This descriptive pilot project was designed to determine feasibility of implementing gait speed screening into routine nursing practice by objectively identifying patients with sub-optimal gait speeds. Participants included community-dwelling adults 65 years and older with plans for discharge following ED treatment. Patients with a gait speed <1.0 m/s were identified as “high-risk” for an adverse event, and referred to the ED social worker for individualized resources prior to discharge. Thirty-five patients were screened and nurse initiated gait speed screens were completed 60% of the time. This project demonstrates ED gait speed screening may be feasible. Implications for practice should consider incorporating gait speed screening into routine nursing assessment to improve provider ED decision-making and disposition planning.

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