Evaluation of the implementation of a bowel management protocol in intensive care: Effect on clinician practices and patient outcomes

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Journal Article
Journal of Clinical Nursing, 2014, 23 (5-6), pp. 716 - 730
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Aims and objectives: To evaluate the effect of a multifaceted implementation of a bowel management protocol on outcomes for intensive care patients, in particular the incidence of constipation and diarrhoea, and on clinicians' bowel management practices. Background: Complications associated with poor bowel management for critically ill patients result in adverse outcomes. Implementation of protocols requires strategies proven to change clinician behaviour. Design: Before and after study. Methods: Our bowel management protocol was implemented using three evidence-based elements: education sessions, printed educational materials in the form of a fact sheet and reminders. We retrospectively collected data from patients' medical records admitted at two time points within three Sydney metropolitan intensive care units (preimplementation, n = 101; postimplementation, n = 107). Results: No significant difference was found in the incidence of constipation and diarrhoea pre and postimplementation of the protocol. Seventy-two per cent (n = 73) of patients preimplementation and 70% (n = 75) of patients postimplementation experienced one or more episodes of constipation (bowels not open for 72 hours or greater), and 16% (n = 16) of patients preimplementation and 20% (n = 21) of patients postimplementation experienced one or more episodes of diarrhoea. There was a slight nonsignificant increase in bowel assessment on admission by medical officers postimplementation (pre, 47%, n = 48; post, 60%, n = 64). Conclusion: Targeted multifaceted implementation of a bowel management protocol did not have an impact on the incidence of constipation or diarrhoea for intensive care patients or on clinician practices. The lack of impact on patient outcomes may be due to clinicians' nonadherence to our bowel management protocol. Reasons clinicians' practices did not change may include the influences of clinical decision-making on behaviour. Relevance to clinical practice: This study highlights difficulties inherent in changing clinician behaviour and practices to improve patient outcomes despite using an evidence-based multifaceted implementation strategy. Further research is required to ascertain the most effective implementation strategies. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
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