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ICU nurses need training to spot delirium

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A simple education programme can significantly improve nurses’ ability to screen ICU patients for delirium, claim US researchers.

Fifty nurses from two ICUs were evaluated before and after completing a training programme, which consisted of a slide presentation on the use of different scale-based delirium assessments, practical exercises and case scenarios.

The researchers said that prior to completing the programme only a quarter of nurses reported the presence or absence of delirium, and only 16% were correct (when compared with the assessment of an expert judge.)

But following training all the nurses were able to report whether delirium was present or absent, with 82% using a validated delirium screening tool.

The number of nurses using the screening tool correctly increased dramatically after training – from just 8% before to 62% after.

Lead study author John Devlin, from the school of pharmacy at Northeastern University in Boston, USA, said: ‘Training in the ICU often focuses on how to assess levels of pain and sedation in patients.

‘However, educational initiatives to improve [nurses’] ability to assess delirium are at least as important and should be part of any ICU patient improvement effort.’

The study results are published online in the open access journal Critical Care.

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