Home nurses and patient depression. Attitudes, competences and the effects of a minimal intervention

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To explore attitudes and confidence in professional competence of home nurses concerning depression and to evaluate the capacity of a minimal intervention in helping home nurses to detect depression in patients and their family caregivers.


Long-term ill patients have an elevated risk to develop comorbid depression, as do their family caregivers. However, most primary care providers have little training to detect patients at risk. A minimal intervention to help home nurses detect symptoms of depression was therefore evaluated.


Quasi-experimental field study with pre-measures, postmeasures and follow-up measures.


From the Fall of 2012–Spring of 2013, home nurses (N = 92) in three regions in Antwerp (Belgium) were assigned to a 1-hour intervention (consisting of information, skill training and discussion; N = 63) or to a control condition (N = 29). The Depression Attitude Questionnaire and the Morris Confidence Scale were completed before the intervention and 3 and 7 months afterwards. For 3 months, the number of detections of depression in patients in each region was monitored.


No significant changes were found in attitude or confidence in professional competences, except for a decline in the role attitude for home nurses in the intervention group. Home nurses who followed the intervention did detect significantly more depressed patients compared with controls.


These findings suggest that a minimal intervention can allow home nurses to be more responsive to symptoms of depression in patients and their family caregivers. The implications of these findings are discussed and suggestions for future research are made.

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