Aims and objectives. The aim of this study is to examine the subjective burden experienced by nurses when they provide care for patients with acute delirium.
Background. Nurses’ responses to dealing with the increased functional and copious demands associated with caring for a patient with delirium are not well explored.
Design. The study was descriptive and retrospective, adopting quantitative research methodologies.
Methods. The Strain of Care for Delirium Index (SCDI) was used to collect data in 2007 from a random sample of the national nurses’ register (n = 800), in the Republic of Ireland.
Results. The subjective burden that nurses experience when caring for patients with delirium was high (M = 2·97). The hyperactive/hyperalert subscale was deemed the most challenging to deal with (M = 3·41). In relation to individual behaviours, the patients who averaged highest in terms of burden are those who are uncooperative and difficult to manage (M = 3·58).
Conclusion. This study represents the first reported measurement and examination of the subjective burden nurses experience when caring for patients with delirium, following initial development and testing of a sensitive tool (International Journal of Nursing Studies41, 775). Findings outlined the subtypes and behaviours that increase the burden of caring for patients with delirium. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and further research is needed to explore the impact of nurse reactions further and to identify supportive/preventative methods for nurses. A specific examination into the factors that cause high levels of strain needs is required.
Relevance to clinical practice. This study highlights and confirms that nursing patients with delirium is challenging for nurses. It raises awareness of the practice and policy implications of nurses’ potential negative reactions to these patients. It highlights the need for additional training and education to ensure that nurses understand this condition to provide for prevention, early detection and prompt intervention.