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Agitated older patients: Nurses’ perceptions and reality


  • Julia Poole RN MN GradDipGeront MPubMan(Hlth) DipPsychOldAge,

    Corresponding author
    1. Clinical Nurse Consultant in Aged Care, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, NSW, Australia
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  • Sarah Mott RN RMHN PhD FRCNA

    1. Professor of Rehabilitation Nursing, University of Western Sydney/Royal Rehabilitation Centre, Sydney, NSW, Australia
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Julia Poole, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, NSW 2065, Australia. Email:


Management of agitation is an increasingly common duty in the nursing care of older patients. Agitation describes a range of behavioural symptoms including aggressiveness and hyperactivity, and can be a sign of severe illness. In a series of focus groups in a large teaching hospital, nurses’ feelings and actions in regard to nursing agitated older people were recorded and analysed. The results demonstrated that agitation is not well understood and is often not well-managed. Despite recent efforts to provide more supportive staffing structures, nurses felt particularly stressed and unsupported in relation to this phenomenon. Recommendations are made for the instigation of enhanced education programmes as well as ongoing attention to improved workload initiatives.