Barriers to frontline surgical nurse detection of delirium in the hospitalized older adult




Duncan, Vera

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Many older adults experience complications related to hospitalization. The most prevalent of complications is delirium which often goes undetected and untreated and results in increased morbidity and mortality. Nurses are in an ideal position to detect and manage delirium because of their close patient contact, however delirium remains underrecognized even when using a valid screening tool. This study adopts a qualitative descriptive approach to identify the barriers to nurse detection of delirium. Ten frontline surgical nurses participated in semi-structured interviews from which five major themes emerged through an inductive thematic analysis. Nurses have a knowledge deficit of the features of delirium and find it difficult to access information regarding their patients’ baseline cognitive function. Nurses reported inadequate time with patients that led to a self-perpetuating delirium cycle and furthermore, nurses stated that hyperactive delirium symptoms prevented adequate assessment and care. Nurse-physician communication plays an important role in delirium detection and treatment with both psychological and feminist perspectives offered. Recommendations include improvements in nursing knowledge, management of time and enhancements to current written and verbal communication about delirium.



delirium, delirium detection, nurse detection, older adult, surgical nurses