Nursing needs of acutely ill older people

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2003, 44 (5), pp. 507 - 516
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Background. Investigating older acutely ill hospitalized patients' nursing needs and quality of care is paramount, given the growing pressure on nurses to provide increasingly intensive levels of care to a growing older population while at the same time working with reduced staffing levels. Aims. The aims of this study were to determine: (1) important aspects of nursing care as perceived by older patients, their family member/carer who observed care during hospitalization, and nurses; (2) satisfaction levels of patients, family/carers and nurses on nursing care received; and (3) mismatches between nursing care priorities and satisfaction with nursing care. Methods. Two hundred and thirty-two acutely ill patients aged over 65 years, 99 carers/family members and 90 nurses completed the Caregiving Activities Survey, which measures importance of and satisfaction with various aspects of nursing care. Qualitative data, which qualified responses to survey items, were also obtained from participants. Results. Patients, carers and nurses perceived that carrying out doctors' orders was the most important aspect of nursing care, followed by physical care, psychosocial care and discharge planning. Nurses and carers rated physical care, psychosocial care and discharge planning more highly than patients. Physical care was rated highly by patients in terms of importance, but rated moderately in terms of satisfaction. Carers' and patients' ratings of satisfaction with physical care were lower than nurses' ratings of opportunities to provide it. The importance of discharge planning was rated highly by nurses but all groups were only moderately satisfied with this aspect of care. Study limitations. The findings do not apply to acutely ill older patients with confusion, mental illness or more than early stage dementia. Conclusions. Patients, nurses and family/carers were generally in agreement about the relative importance of particular aspects of nursing care. Nurses may need to communicate more effectively with older patients and their family carers about the particular roles they will play during the patient's hospital episode, the expectations they have of patients in the process of healing and recovery, and the reasons for the actions they take in aiding this process. The findings are useful in making nurses more aware of the expectations and needs of older hospital patients and their carers. They provide evidence for developing both new models of nursing care for this patient group, and nursing education programmes.
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