Emergency medical service, nursing, and physician providers’ perspectives on delirium identification and management
AbstractPurpose of the study
The study objective was to understand providers’ perceptions regarding identifying and treating older adults with delirium, a common complication of acute illness in persons with dementia, in the pre-hospital and emergency department environments.Design and methods
The authors conducted structured focus group interviews with separate groups of emergency medical services staff, emergency nurses, and emergency physicians. Recordings of each session were transcribed, coded, and analyzed for themes with representative supporting quotations identified.Results
Providers shared that the busy emergency department environment was the largest challenge to delirium recognition and treatment. When describing delirium, participants frequently detailed hyperactive features of delirium, rather than hypoactive features. Participants shared that they employed no clear diagnostic strategy for identifying the condition and that they used heterogeneous approaches to treat the condition. To improve care for older adults with delirium, emergency nurses identified the need for more training around the management of the condition. Emergency medical services providers identified the need for more support in managing agitated patients when in transport to the hospital and more guidance from emergency physicians on what information to collect from the patient’s home environment. Emergency physicians felt that delirium care would be improved if they could have baseline mental status data on their patients and if they had access to a simple, accurate diagnostic tool for the condition.Implications
Emergency medical services providers, emergency nurses, and emergency physicians frequently encounter delirious patients, but do not employ clear diagnostic strategies for identifying the condition and have varying levels of comfort in managing the condition. Clear steps should be taken to improve delirium care in the emergency department including the development of mechanisms to communicate patients’ baseline mental status, the adoption of a systematized approach to recognizing delirium, and the institution of a standardized method to treat the condition when identified.