How Nurses Decide to Ambulate Hospitalized Older Adults: Development of a Conceptual Model

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Abstract

Adults over the age of 65 years account for 60% of all hospital admissions and experience consequential negative outcomes directly related to hospitalization. Negative outcomes include falls, delirium, loss in ability to perform basic activities of daily living, and new walking dependence. New walking dependence, defined as the loss in ability to walk independently, occurs in 16%--59% of hospitalized older patients. Nurses are pivotal in promoting functional walking independence in hospitalized patients. However, little is known about how nurses make decisions about whether, when, and how to ambulate older patients. A qualitative study using grounded dimensional analysis was conducted to further explore how nurses make decisions about ambulating hospitalized older adults. Twenty-five registered nurses participated in in-depth interviews lasting 30--60 min. Open, axial, and selective coding was used during the analysis. A conceptual model, which is grounded in how nurses experience ambulating patients, was developed. Multiple categories and dimensions interact and produce an action by the nurse to either restrict mobilization to the level of the bed or progress the patient to ambulation in the hallway. Factors that seemed to have a greater impact on nurses’ decisions on whether, when, and how to ambulate were the risk/opportunity assessment, preventing complications, and the presence of a unit expectation to ambulate patients.

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