Skin tear prevention and management among patients in the acute aged care and rehabilitation units in the Australian Capital Territory: a best practice implementation project

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A skin tear is a traumatic wound that results from the separation of the skin layers due to shearing forces, friction or blunt trauma that affects all people. Numerous preventative measures aim to reduce the skin tears and minimise conditions that predispose the epidermis to injury. With the increasing elderly population in acute aged care, implementation of an evidence-based guideline is critical as changes to ageing skin integrity make this population more susceptible to skin tear.


The aim of this project was to ensure the practice of skin tear assessment, prevention and management among acute aged care causes and rehabilitation patients was performed according to best available evidence.


This project utilised a pre- and post-implementation audit design using the Joanna Briggs Institute Practical Application of Clinical Evidence System and Getting Research into Practice programs. The project was conducted from June to November 2010 with the audits conducted in the acute aged care and rehabilitation units of two public hospitals in the Australian Capital Territory involving a sample size of 96 patients at pre-audit and 95 patient at post-audit admitted during the audit period. A convenience sample of 20 nurses also consented to be observed. The audits were conducted after obtaining ethics approval and consent from patients and nurses.


The results showed a significant change in compliance to the skin tear guidelines at post-implementation audit. Staff education in particular had a dramatic increase from 20% to 98% and the point prevalence rate of hospital-acquired skin tear decreased from 10% to 0.15%.


This project emphasised the importance of education of all personnel involved in patient care and that a simple assessment of skin integrity is critical in preventing and managing skin tear especially among the susceptible elderly population

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