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Extended care nurses’ knowledge about sudden onset confusion in the elderly Amdam, J. Lori


The sudden onset of confusion in an elderly client requires accurate and expeditious nursing assessment. If the cause of the confusion is identified and treated, irreversible deterioration of the client's mental functioning may be prevented. Studies have suggested that nurses lack adequate assessment skills and knowledge about the causes of sudden onset confusion. This descriptive study was designed to measure the knowledge possessed by registered nurses working in British Columbia Extended Care units about the causes of sudden onset confusion in the elderly. Relationships between knowledge scores and specific characteristics of the subjects (age, type of preparatory and additional nursing education, and length of experience in long term care nursing) were also examined. A random sample of 130 British Columbia registered nurses working in Extended Care Units was generated by the Registered Nurses Association of British Columbia(R.N.A.B.C.) data bank. A questionnaire which tested knowledge about causes of confusion and a demographic form were mailed to each subject. Sixty eight percent completed questionnaires were returned for a response rate of 52%. Of those, 62 were fully completed and appropriate for inclusion in data analysis. Sixty six percent of the respondents returned a coupon indicating their desire to receive a summary of the research study when it was completed. The nurses' test scores were analyzed to determine their knowledge about confusion and correlations between test scores and demographic characteristics were explored. The highest score possible on the confusion questionnaire was 15. Test results of subjects ranged from a high of 15 to a low of 5, with the mean being12.6 (M = 12.6, SD = 2.3). Although the majority of nurses scored higher than the mean, some subjects obtained scores of less than 50%. Knowledge scores were seemingly unaffected by demographic characteristics. For example, no relationship was found between the subjects' knowledge about confusion and their age, education, or length of experience in long term care nursing. Based on the findings of this study, implications for nursing practice, education, and administration are proposed. Recommendations for further research are also made.

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