The Literature Review and Searching for Evidence



This week’s graded topics relate to the following Course Outcomes (COs).

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  • CO 1: Examine the sources of evidence that contribute to professional nursing practice. (PO 7)
  • CO 2: Apply research principles to the interpretation of the content of published research studies. (PO 4 & 8)
  • CO 4: Evaluate published nursing research for credibility and clinical significance related to evidence-based practice. (PO 4 & 8).
  • Discussion

You must access the following article to answer the questions:

Baker, N., Taggart, H., Nivens, A. & Tillman, P. (2015). Delirium: Why are nurses confused? MedSurg Nursing, 24(1), 15-22.

permalink (Links to an external site.)


  • Locate the literature review section. Summarize using your own words from one of the study/literature findings. Be sure to identify which study you are summarizing.
  • Discuss how the author’s review of literature (studies) supported the research purpose/problem. Share something that was interesting to you as you read through the literature review section.
  • Describe one strategy that you learned that would help you create a strong literature review/search for evidence. Share your thoughts on the importance of a thorough review of the literature.

D elirium : W hy Are Nurses Confused?
Nidsa D. Baker

Helen M. Taggart
Anita Nivens

Paula Tillman

Nurses have a key role in detection of delirium, yet this condition
remains under recognized and poorly managed. The aim of this
study was to explore nurses’ knowledge of delirium-related infor­
mation as well as their perception of their level o f knowledge.

D elirium is a serious, costly, potentially preventable com­plication for hospitalized
patients age 65 and older (Wofford &
Vacchiano, 2011). This acute, short­
term disturbance of consciousness
may last from a few hours to as long
as a few months. It is characterized
by an acute onset of inattention, dis­
organized thinking, and/or altered
level of consciousness.

Delirium can be categorized as
hyperactive, hypoactive, or mixed
based on symptoms that can fluctu­
ate and change during the course of
the disorder. Hyperactive or excited
delirium involves agitation and hal­
lucinations (American Psychiatric
Association, 2011; Holly, Cantwell,
& Jadotte, 2012). Patients with
hyperactive delirium are more likely
to receive earlier treatment than
patients who exhibit the less easily
recognized signs of hypoactive deliri­
um: lethargy, drowsiness, and inat­
tention. In addition, patients may
show signs of both hyperactive and
hypoactive delirium in a condition
described as mixed variant delirium
(Holly et al., 2012). Health care
providers often confuse delirium
with depression and/or dementia
(Fick, Hodo, & Lawrence, 2007;
Holly et al., 2012; Voyer, Richard,
Doucet, Danjou, & Carmichael,
2008). Unlike delirium, which hap­
pens suddenly over a few hours or
days, dementia usually develops
gradually over months or years,
while depression generally develops
over weeks or months, or, less often,
after a sudden event (Holly et al.,
2012; Young & Inouye, 2007) (see
Table 1).

Delirium is a common multifac­
torial disorder that involves a vul­
nerable patient with predisposing

factors and exposure to precipitat­
ing factors (Sendelbach & Guthrie,
2009). It can occur at various ages.
However, older adults are particu­
larly vulnerable to delirium, espec­
ially when they are ill (Featherstone
& Hopton, 2010) (see Table 2).
Underlying risk factors are often
contributory to delirium in older
adults. Common triggers are infec­
tion, medications, general pain,
constipation, dehydration, and
environmental factors (Dahlke &
Phinney, 2008; Quinlan et al.,
2011). Although delirium occurs
commonly in acute care settings,
older adult residents of long-term
care and assisted living homes are
vulnerable as well. Rates of delirium
in long-term care settings range
from 1% to 60% (Lee, Ha, Lee,
Kang, & Koo, 2011; Siddiqi, Young,
& Cheater, 2008). Delirium is asso­
ciated with poor patient outcomes
that include longer hospital stays,
increased costs, increased need for

post-acute care, and significant
stress for patients and families
(O’Mahony, Murthy, Akunne, &
Young, 2011). At least 20% of the
12.5 million patients age 65 or older
hospitalized each year have deliri­
um as a complication, causing a
$9,000 to $15,000 increase depend­
ing on the severity in hospital costs
per patient. Delirium attributes to
annual estimated cost of $38 – $152
billion (Kalish, Gillham, & Unwin,
2014; Young & Inouye, 2007).

The prevalence of delirium varies
from 1% to 80% depending on pop­
ulation, the time of delirium assess­
ment, and the assessment method.
In addition, the documented inci­
dence of delirium extended from
3% to 61% (Kalish et al., 2014;
Young & Inouye, 2007). Addition­
ally, the prevalence of this condi­
tion reported in medical and surgi­
cal intensive care unit cohort stud­
ies varied from 20% to 80% (Girard,
Panharipande, & Ely, 2008; Kalish

Nidsa D. Baker, MSN, RN, ANP-BC, is Adult Nurse Practitioner, St. Joseph’s/Candler Health
System St. Mary’s Health Center, Savannah, GA.

Helen M. Taggart, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, is Professor, Department of Nursing, College of Health
Professions, Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, GA.

Anita Nivens, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, is Graduate Nursing Program Coordinator and Professor,
Department of Nursing, College of Health Professions, Armstrong Atlantic State University,
Savannah, GA.

Paula Tillman, DNP RN, ACNS-BC, is Assistant Professor, Armstrong Atlantic State University,
Savannah, GA, and Informatics Specialist, Memorial Health University Medical Center,
Savannah, GA.

Acknowledgments: The authors thank Malcolm Hare, Fremantle Hospital and Health Service
and Curtin University School of Nursing in Australia, for granting permission to utilize the ques­

MEDSURG n u r s i n g . January-February 2015 • Vol. 24/No. 1 15

Research for Practice

C o m p a ris o n o f D e liriu m , D e m e n tia , a n d D epression

Delirium Dementia Depression
Onset Sudden: Hours or days Gradual over months or years

Gradual over weeks or months,
or after an event


Fluctuates: Sleepy or agitated,
unable to concentrate

Generally stable Generally stable, some difficulty

Sleep Sudden changes in sleeping
pattern, unusual confusion at night

Can be disturbed, with habitual
night-time wandering

Early morning waking

Thinking Disorganized, rambling Specific, difficulty with short-term

Preoccupied with negative
thoughts, hopelessness, help­
lessness, self-depreciation

Perception Delusions, hallucinations common Generally normal Generally normal

Source: Holly et al., 2012

P redisposing a n d P re c ip ita tin g Factors fo r D e liriu m

Predisposing Factors Precipitating Factors

Age a 65 Use of sedative hypnotics, opioids, or
Male sex anticholinergic drugs
Co-existing dementia/cognitive Stroke

impairment Infections
History of delirium Hypoxia
Depression Shock
Functional dependence Fever or hypothermia
Immobility Anemia
Low level of activity Poor nutritional status
History of falls Recent surgery (major/minor)
Visual impairment Admission to an intensive care unit
Hearing impairment Use of physical restraints
Dehydration Use of indwelling urinary catheter
Malnutrition Multiple procedures
Polypharmacy Pain
Alcohol/drug abuse Emotional stress

Prolonged sleep deprivation

Source: Sendelbach & Guthrie, 2009

et al., 2014). Delirium is com m on
am ong elders in long-term care
(LTC) facilities, with its prevalence
ranging from 9.6% to 89% (Voyer et
al., 2008).

Although com m on, delirium
often is under-recognized and
under-diagnosed (O’Mahony et al.,
2011). Because of the high incidence
and costs associated with delirium,
prevention should be a high priority
for health care professionals, espe­
cially nurses (Harris, Chodosh,
Vassar, Vickrey, & Shapiro, 2009).

Nurses spend more time with
patients, allowing them to observe
any changes in patients’ attention,
level of consciousness, and cognitive
function (Brixey & Mahon, 2010). As
a result, frequent assessments by
nurses are crucial for early detection
of delirium (Girard et al., 2008).

Literature Review
A comprehensive review of the

literature was conducted of all orig­
inal research published 2001-2014

using MEDLINE, CINAHL, and
ProQuest Psychology Journals.
Search terms included delirium or
acute confusion and nurses, nurses’
recognition, nurses’ identification, or
nurses’ knowledge. Exclusion criteria
were studies not reporting primary
data and studies th a t did n o t
include m easurem ent of nurse
recognition or knowledge of deliri­
um. A lthough now dated, the
selected research specifically evalu­
ated nurses’ knowledge deficit for
delirium in studies of various
designs. In addition, fewer studies
actually assessed th e levels of
knowledge about delirium factors,
such as definition, available and
appropriate assessment scales/tools,
and risks (Hare, Dianne, Sunita, Ian,
& Gaye, 2008).

Many studies of delirium focused
on th e advantages of educated
intervention, such as prevention
practices, increased early detection,
and proper medical management
(Bergmann, Murphy, Kiely, Jones, &
Marcantonio, 2005; Featherstone &
Hopton, 2010; Rapp, Mentes, &
Titler, 2001). Researchers also found
a positive correlation between use
of an educational intervention for
nursing and medical professionals
and positive patient outcomes such
as decreased length of hospital stay
(Meako, Thompson, & Cochrane,
2011; Tabet et al., 2005). Fick and
co-authors (2007) found using case
vignettes could evaluate nurses’

16 la n u a ry -F e b ru a ry 2015 • Vol. 2 4 /N o . 1 MEDSURG N U R S IISTO

Delirium: Why Are Nurses Confused?

knowledge of delirium in patients
with dementia.

Hare and colleagues (2008) tar­
geted 1,097 clinical nurses in a hos­
pital setting with a questionnaire to
assess their knowledge of delirium
and its associated risk factors. Of the
338 (30.8%) returned responses,
64% (n=217) scored 50% or better
on the questionnaire. In addition,
36.3% (n=123) scored 50% or better
for the risk factor questions while
81.9% («=227) scored 50% or better
for the knowledge questions. Find­
ings indicated orthopedic nurses
who had participated in a delirium
education forum prior to the
research scored better on the gener­
al facts portion of the questionnaire
when compared to nurses having
no pre-survey educational interven­
tion. However, the orthopedic nurs­
es did not score higher compared to
other surveyed nurses on the risk
factor questions. The researchers
thus found nurses were n o t as
knowledgeable about delirium risk
factors as they were about general
facts concerning delirium.

Fick and co-authors (2007) also
assessed nurses’ knowledge of deliri­
um but more narrowly focused on
delirium superimposed on dementia
(DSD), with the goal of determining
if nurses were able to recognize these
conditions using case vignettes. The
case vignettes were designed to eval­
uate knowledge of delirium, its risk
factors, and management. The study
also assessed nurses’ geropsychiatric
knowledge using the Mary Starke
Harper Aging Knowledge Exam
(MSHAKE), a tool that measures gen­
eral geropsychiatric knowledge. Of
29 participating nurses, 41% (n=12)
were able to identify dementia cor­
rectly in the dementia vignette but
had difficulty differentiating deliri­
um factors from DSD factors and
specifically identifying hypoactive
delirium. While this study had a
small sample size, its findings sug­
gested nurses are more likely to dis­
tinguish dementia and hyperactive
delirium than DSD and hypoactive
delirium alone.

Dahlke and Phinney (2008) eval­
uated how nurses assess, prevent,
and treat delirium in older hospital­
ized patients, and identified deliri­

um-related challenges and barriers
faced by nurses when caring for
patients with delirium. This descrip­
tive qualitative study comprised
interviews with nurses who worked
in a hospital. A convenience sam­
pling included 12 registered nurses
in a mid-sized regional hospital in
western Canada who had manageri­
al, educational, and bedside roles
and worked in various areas such as
medical and surgical units. The nurs­
es in the study had 6-43 years of
nursing experience. Level of profes­
sional education included diploma
(«=7), baccalaureate (n=4), and mas­
ter’s degree {n= 1). Each respondent
was interviewed for approximately
1.5 hours with open-ended ques­
tions about his or her clinical and
personal experience with delirium
assessment, recognition, and inter­
vention. Analysis of the recorded
interviews yielded three main deliri­
um-related strategies: Taking a Quick
Look, Keeping an Eye on Them, and
Controlling the Situation.

Taking a Quick Look suggested
nurses quickly assess patients
because of the limited time general­
ly available in a fast-paced acute
care setting (Dahlke & Phinney,
2008). Keeping an Eye on Them rec­
om m ended frequent rounding and
m onitoring of patients assessed to
be at risk for delirium. Controlling
the Situation focused on intervening
as needed to prevent injury and
provide appropriate therapy. Au­
thors found nurses repeatedly
reported having little to no formal
education about older adults and
had sparse formal knowledge of
delirium; they concluded nurses
would benefit from increased deliri­
um-related educational support.

Additional research assessing
nurses’ knowledge of delirium has
been completed in LTC settings.
Voyer and co-authors (2008)
assessed nurse detection of delirium
in older adults. This prospective
study identified th e signs and
symptoms m ost challenging to dis­
tinguish, as well as delirium factors
most likely to go unnoticed. At
three LTC facilities and a large
regional hospital LTC unit over two
7-day periods, trained research
assistants (nurses who had complet­

ed 15 hours of instruction on delir­
ium and dementia detection) inter­
viewed 160 consenting patients age
65 and over with no history of psy­
chiatric illness. Investigators collect­
ed relevant dem ographic and
health inform ation and assessed
patients for delirium as part of their
interviews. Nurses were questioned
about their ability and experience
in assessing delirium in patients.
The incidence of delirium among
patient participants was 71.5%
(n=108); of those, nurses identified
delirium in just 13% (n=14).
Authors concluded nurses under­
recognize delirium in older adults
in the LTC setting.

Nurses’ failure to differentiate and

recognize delirium early may be due
to lack of knowledge about delirium,
risk factors, preventive measures,
and treatment. Therefore, the pur­
pose of this study was to assess nurs­
es’ knowledge of delirium and its risk
factors, and correlate findings to
demographic variables, such as nurs­
es’ years of experience, level of edu­
cation, and area of practice. The
study also was designed to evaluate
nurses’ perception of their own level
of competency related to delirium
recognition and management.

Research Questions
Research questions addressed in

this study included the following:
1. W hat was nurses’ level of

knowledge of delirium?
2. What was nurses’ level of know­

ledge of delirium risk factors?
3. Was there a correlation be­

tween nurses’ years of experi­
ence, education, and practice
area, and their knowledge of
delirium and its risk factors?

4. How did nurses perceive their
own knowledge com petency
related to delirium?

1. Nurses have insufficient knowl­

edge of delirium and its risk fac­
tor as evidenced by scoring less
th an 75% on the questionnaire.

2. A high correlation exists be­
tween a nurse’s level of experi­
ence, education, and area of

MEDSURG n uhs img. J a n u a r y – F e b r u a r y 2015 • V ol. 2 4 / N o . 1 17

Research for Practice

practice, and his or her knowl­
edge of delirium and its risk fac­

M e t h o d s
After receiving institutional re­

view board approval from the affili­
ated hospital and university in the
Southeast region of th e U nited
States, researchers sent an a n ­
nouncem ent about the study by
mass email to potential respondents
who were nurses employed at this
hospital. This nonexperim ental,
descriptive study was conducted
over a 2-week period. Researchers
manually distributed 150 question­
naires to every hospital unit (med­
ical-surgical, orthopedic, oncology,
progressive care, neuro-intensive
care, m edical-surgical intensive
care, cardiac care) to nurses who
volunteered to participate in the

In str u m e n ta tio n
The research instrum ent used in

this study was used previously in a
similar study (Hare et al., 2008).
Permission to use the questionnaire
was obtained from its original
developers (M. Hare, personal com ­
m unication, March 15, 2011). The
questionnaire, which was untitled
in the previous study, was labeled
for the current study as Nurses’
Knowledge of Delirium (NKD)
(Hare et al., 2008). The NKD ques­
tionnaire has neither been validated
nor had its reliability established
(M. Hare, personal com m unication,
September 22, 2011). However, the
developer explained m any other
researchers and organizations world­
wide, such as N ational Health
Service in the Great Britain, have
utilized all or part of the question­
naires subsequent to the original
study; thus, validation and reliabili­
ty may have been established w ith­
out the knowledge of the developers
(M. Hare, personal communication,
September 22, 2011).

The NKD questionnaire has two
sections: a 10-question section for
demographic data collection and 36
specific delirium-related questions
called the knowledge section. The
demographic section required par­

ticipants to provide age, sex, prac­
tice setting, specialty, level of educa­
tion, and years of nursing experi­
ence. Participants also were asked if
they had experience in caring for a
patient with delirium; if so, how fre­
quently had they provided care and
had they received any formal deliri­
um-related continuing education?
Respondents also were asked to pro­
vide their perceptions of their cur­
rent personal knowledge of deliri­
um by selecting one of the follow­
ing descriptors: lack competency,
minimal competency, average compe­
tency, above average competency,
advanced competency, or expert com­
petency. The demographic section
required written responses and con­
tained m ultiple-choice questions
except respondent age.

In the knowledge section of the
questionnaire, participants identi­
fied the definition of delirium in a
multiple-choice question, and seven
scales/tools comm only used when
assessing patients with delirium,
dementia, and/or depression. All 28
remaining questions in this section
assessed respondents’ general
knowledge of delirium and its risk
factors using a Likert-scale (agree,
disagree, or unsure). This section
contained one definition question,
seven scales/tools questions, 14
general questions about delirium,
and 14 questions about risk factors
in a random ly mixed sequence.
Participants independently com ­
pleted just one of the forms in its
entirety and placed finished ques­
tionnaires in a collection folder
located in the nurses’ lounges on
each unit. The tool did not request
any identifying inform ation from
participants so anon y m ity was

C o llectio n o f D ata a n d
A nalysis o f D ata

Once th e questionnaires were
collected, answers were compared
to a codebook or key created to pro­
vide quick, accurate assignment of
numerical values to the different
answers for analysis. Com pleted
questionnaires were crosschecked
manually with the answer key and
entered into an Excel spreadsheet to
construct a database. Percentages

and means were used to describe
th e dem ographic variables. The
com pleted database th e n was
exported to SPSS version 15 (IBM,
Chicago, IL) for detailed analysis.
Researchers used analysis of vari­
ance (ANOVA) to determine if a cor­
relation existed betw een nurses’
dem ographic characteristics and
their knowledge of delirium and
delirium risk factors, and nurses’
perceptions of personal com peten­
cy related to delirium. For the pur­
pose of this study, p<0.05 indicated statistical significance.

F in d in g s

D em ograp h ics
Of the targeted 150 potential

nurse participants, 60 (40%) com ­
pleted survey questionnaires; one
questionnaire was excluded as com­
pleted by a non-nurse. Researchers
categorized respondents by age: 19
respondents (31.67%) were ages 20-
30, 17 (28.33%) were ages 31-40, 10
(16.67%) were ages 41-50, and 14
(23.33%) were age 50 or older.
Eighty-three percent of respondents
were female.

Thirty-four respondents (56.67%)
held a BSN degree, 18 (30%) held an
ADN degree, six (10%) held an MSN
degree with preparation as either a
nurse practitioner or clinical nurse
specialist, and two (3.33%) indicat­
ed they held a diploma in nursing.

Twenty respondents (33%) indi­
cated they had practiced as nurses
4-7 years, 14 (23.33%) had practiced
20 years or more, and nine (15%)
less th an 3 years. All respondents
worked in an acute care setting; 35
(58.33%) practiced on a medical-
surgical unit, 20 (33.33%) in a criti­
cal care unit, two (3.33%) in a surgi­
cal area, two (3.33%) in “other”
areas (e.g., rehabilitation or primary
care area), and one (1.67%) in a
post-anesthesia care unit. Forty-two
(75%) respondents reported having
received no prior delirium-related
education and 50 (83.33%) indicat­
ed they would be interested in
receiving education about delirium.
Finally, 51 respondents (85%) said
they had provided care previously
to patients with delirium.

January-February 2015 • Vol. 24/N o. 1 MEDSURG N U RS IN G -18

Delirium: Why Are Nurses Confused?

Knowledge and Risk Factors

Of 36 questions on the NKD ques­
tionnaire, respondents answered an
average of 23.10 (64.17%) correctly.
Only 12 respondents (20%) scored
75% or greater on the question­
naire. Total knowledge and risk fac­
tor scores included only respon­
dents who correctly answered ques­
tions, n o t those who responded
incorrectly or “unsure.”

Research Question 1: W hat is
nurses’ level o f knowledge o f delirium?
Twenty-two questions specifically
required participants to answer gen­
eral knowledge questions about
delirium. The average num ber of
knowledge questions answered cor­
rectly was 15.32 (42.55%) (see Table
3). Twenty-one (35%) respondents
scored 75% or greater on the deliri­
um questions.

Research Question 2: W hat is
nurses’ level o f knowledge o f delirium
risk factors? Fourteen questions
required correct identification of
delirium risk factors. The average
num ber of risk factor questions
answered correctly was 7.78
(21.62%). However, only six (10%)
respondents scored greater th a n
75% on this group of questions (see
Table 4).

Research Question 3: Is there a
correlation between nurses’ years o f
experience, level o f education, and prac­
tice area, and their knowledge o f deliri­
um and its risk factors? No significant
correlation was found between the
level of education and the number of
correct answers to general delirium
questions (/;=().063) or risk factor
questions (p=0.629). Researchers
found no statistical significance in
correlating the number of years of
nursing practice and the number of
correct answers in general delirium
questions (p=0.217) and risk factor
questions (/;=().809). Finally, no sig­
nificant correlation existed between
the correct answer of delirium ques­
tions and risk factor questions and
the specific areas of practice (p=0.823
and /;=0.560).

Research Question 4: How do
nurses perceive their own competency o f
delirium? Just one (1.67%) partici­
pant self-described as having
advanced competency. Nine (15%)

considered themselves to have above
average competency about delirium,
33 (55%) perceived themselves of
average competency, 11 (18.33%)
reported minimal competency, and
six (10%) said they lacked compe­
tence. Less than half the participants
scored at least 75% on both the gen­
eral delirium and risk factor ques­
tions. No statistical significance was
found between knowledge and nurs­
es’ level of education, experience, or
area of practice. In addition, re­
searchers found no significant corre­
lations between knowledge (general
and risk factors) and receipt of previ­
ous education about delirium
(p=0.352 and p=0.270). However,
this study incidentally determined a
statistically significant difference in
nurses who previously had cared for
patients with delirium and the num ­
ber of correctly answered general
knowledge questions (p=0.028).
However, there was no statistical sig­
nificance for the risk factor questions

Nurses had a significant lack of
knowledge about delirium and its
risk factors. Only 12 of 60 respon­
dents (20%) scored at least 75% to
be considered generally knowledge­
able. Further, the study found no
correlation betw een education
level, years of experience, or area of
practice, and nurses’ general knowl­
edge of delirium and its risk factors.
However, nurses with experience
caring for patients with delirium
scored higher in the general deliri­
um knowledge th an those who
lacked that experience. While more
th an half the respondents described
themselves as having an average
knowledge of delirium, exactly 80%
(?z=48) failed to score 75% (having
average competency).

Lim itations
The study tool was not validated

formally. However, the question­
naire’s authors explained all or part
of the instrum ent had been used in
other studies and programs, and
may in fact, have been validated
elsewhere. In addition, this study
was conducted in only one hospital
and, as a result, response rates were
too low to achieve statistically sig­
nificant results.

Nursing Implications
Because delirium may be difficult

to recognize, it subsequently is
under-recognized and under-treated
by health care professionals (O’Ma-
hony et al., 2011; Rice et al., 2011).
However, all nurses have the
responsibility to identify risk factors
and signs and symptoms of deliri­
um to lessen complications in acute
and primary care settings (Rice et
al., 2011). Com pleting routine
assessments, recognizing predispos­
ing and precipitating risk factors,
and using delirium scales for pre­
vention and treatm ent are key nurs­
ing responsibilities.

Assessing the knowledge of nurs­
es is a crucial step toward quantify­
ing any knowledge deficit before
creating appropriate remedial edu­
cation programs. Hare and col­
leagues (2008) determined the nurs­
ing delirium risk factors knowledge
deficit was lower (46.15%) than
general knowledge (64.91%). This
finding also was confirmed in this
study where the average risk factor
questions answered correctly was
7.78 (21.62%) and th e average
knowledge questions answered cor­
rectly was 15.32 (42.55%). The cur­
rent study findings differed from
those of Hare and colleagues in that
scores on both risk factor and gener­
al knowledge questions were lower
th an those reported by Hare. Nurses
m ust continue to expand their
knowledge of delirium in order to
provide frequent and accurate
assessments required to intervene
before delirium further complicates
patients’ health (Martinez, Tobar,
Bedding, Vallejo, & Fuentes, 2012).

Delirium is a common disorder. If

the condition is not treated properly
or if preventive interventions are
delayed, the patient may continue to
deteriorate and become functionally
impaired. This could lead to long­
term care placement and even death.
In this study, a nursing knowledge
deficit regarding general characteris­
tics of delirium and its risk factors
was identified. Education of nurses
in all care settings is vital for future

MEDSURG i s r u r i R B r j s r o , ja nu ary-F ebru ary 2015 • Vol. 24/N o. 1 19

Research for Practice

Questionnaire Results for Knowledge of Delirium

Correct A nsw er

n (%)
Incorrect A nsw er

n (%)
Unsure A nsw er

n (%)
2.1 Delirium: an acute confusion, fluctuating mental

state, disorganized thinking, altered level of

51 (85.00%) 9 (15.00%) 0

2.2 Mini Mental State Examination
(Delirium /D em entia)

9 (15.00%) 51 (85.00%) 0

2.3 Glasgow Com a Scale (None) 43 (71.67%) 17 (28.33%) 0

2.4 Delirium Rating Scale (Delirium) 51 (85.00%) 9 (15.00%) 0

2.5 Alcohol W ithdrawal Scale (Delirium) 25 (41.67%) 35 (58.33%) 0

2.6 Confusion Assessm ent Method (Delirium) 16 (26.67%) 44 (73.33%) 0

2.7 Beck’s Depression Inventory (Depression) 50 (83.33%) 10 (16.67%) 0

2.8 Braden Scale (None) 52 (86.67%) 8 (13.33%) 0

2.9 Fluctuation between orientation and
disorientation is not typical of delirium. (False)

43 (71.67%) 11 (18.33%) 6 (10.00%)

2.10 Sym ptom s of depression may mimic delirium.

36 (60.00%) 17 (28.33%) 7 (11.67%)

2.11 Treatm ent for delirium always includes
sedation. (False)

43 (71.67%) 6 (10.00%) 11 (18.33%)

2.12 Patients never rem em ber episodes of delirium.

43 (71.67%) 4 (6.67%) 13 (21.67%)

2.13 A Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE) is
the best w ay to diagnose delirium. (False)

28 (46.67%) 11 (18.33%) 21 (35.00%)

2.15 Delirium never lasts for more than a few hours.

51 (85.00%) 4 (6.67%) 5 (8.33%)

2.28 A patient who is lethargic and difficult to rouse
does not have a delirium. (False)

29 (48.33%) 16 (26.67%) 15 (25.00%)

2.29 Patients with delirium are always physically
and/or verbally aggressive. (False)

52 (86.67%) 3 (5.00%) 5 (8.33%)

2.30 Delirium is generally caused by alcohol
withdrawal. (False)

35 (58.33%) 18 (30.00%) 7 (11.67%)

2.31 Patients with delirium have a higher mortality
rate. (True)

41 (68.33%) 7 (11.67%) 12 (20.00%)

2.33 Behavioral changes in the course of the day are
typical of delirium. (True)

48 (80.00%) 6 (10.00%) 6 (10.00%)

2.34 A patient with delirium is likely to be easily
distracted and/or have difficulty following a
conversation. (True)

56 (93.33%) 2 (3.33%) 2 (3.33%)

2.35 Patients with delirium will often experience
perceptual disturbances. (True)

59 (98.33%) 0 1 (1.67%)

2.36 Altered sleep/w ake cycle may be a sym ptom of
delirium. (True)

58 (96.67%) 0 2 (3.33%)

20 january-February 2015 • Vol. 24/No. 1 MEDSURG N U R S I N G

Delirium: Why Are Nurses Confused?

Results for Questions Relating to Risk Factors for Delirium

Correct Answer

n (%)
Incorrect Answer

n (%)
Unsure Answer

n (% )
2.14 A patient having a repair of a fractured neck or

femur has the same risk for delirium as a
patient having an elective hip replacement.

12 (20.00%) 40 (66.67%) 8 (13.33%)

2.16 The risk for delirium increases with age. (True) 52 (86.67%) 5 (8.33%) 3 (5.00%)

2.17 A patient with impaired vision is at increased
risk of delirium. (True)

36 (60.00%) 11 (18.33%) 13 (21.67%)

2.18 The greater the number of medications a patient
is taking, the greater his or her risk of delirium.

55 (91.67%) 2 (3.33%) 3 (5.00%)

2.19 A urinary catheter in situ reduces the risk of
delirium. (False)

45 (75.00%) 8 (13.33%) 7 (11.67%)

2.20 Gender has no effect on the development of
delirium. (False)

27 (45.00%) 15 (25.00%) 18 (30.00%)

2.21 Poor nutrition increases the risk of delirium.

52 (86.67%) 2 (3.33%) 6 (10.00%)

2.22 Dementia is the greatest risk factor for delirium.

16 (26.67%) 30 (50.00%) 14 (23.33%)

2.23 Males are more at risk for delirium than
females. (True)

14 (23.33%) 13 (21.67%) 33 (55.00%)

2.24 Diabetes is a high risk factor for delirium.

7 (11.67%) 34 (56.67%) 19 (31.67%)

2.25 Dehydration can be a risk factor for delirium.

58 (96.67%) 0 (0.00%) 2 (3.33%)

2.26 Hearing impairment increases the risk of deliri­
um. (True)

37 (61.67%) 12 (20.00%) 11 (18.33%)

2.27 Obesity is a risk factor for delirium. (False) 38 (63.33%) 4 (6.67%) 18 (30.00%)

2.32 A family history of dementia predisposes a
patient to delirium. (False)

18 (30.00%) 29 (48.33%) 13 (21.67%)

prevention and recognition of deliri­
um. Education should incorporate
assessment and prevention strategies
in caring for patients with delirium
or those who have an increased risk
for developing delirium. Education
can provide nurses the foundation
they need to become more proactive
in addressing this under-recognized
condition (Conley, 2011; Rice et al.,
2011). EE3

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Conley, D. (2011). The gerontological clinical
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Dahlke, S., & Phinney, A. (2008). Caring for
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MEDSURG nursing. January-February 2015 • Vol. 24/No. 1 21

Research for Practice
Holly, C., Cantwell, E.R., & Jadotte, Y. (2012).

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Bathing Persons with

AMSN President’s Message
continued from page 5

continued from page 14

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All Nurses Are Leaders
Developing leadership skills is challenging as well as rewarding.

Throughout my career, I have had mentors who have provided guidance. 1
believe it is our responsibility as nurse leaders to share our wisdom with our
colleagues. Take the time to seek a mentor and discuss your career plans.
That person will have a wealth of knowledge to share and may spark an
interest in a path you have not considered previously. If you are currently a
seasoned nurse, seek mentoring opportunities. Taking an active part in
developing nurses for future leadership roles has been a personally reward­
ing component of my career.

1 challenge you to find opportunities to continue to develop your leader­
ship skills. The AMSN Clinical Leadership Development Program is a course
I strongly encourage you to complete. Maybe this is the right time in your
life to participate in a hospital council as a member or chair. Answering a call
to volunteer for AMSN may be in your future for 2015. Seek new experi­
ences. Rely on mentors for advice and guidance. Become an active partici­
pant in the redesign of health care. Wherever you are in your career path,
remember, a ll nurses are leaders. L’.Hd

Institute of Medicine (IOM). (2011). The future o f nursing: Leading change, advancing health.

Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

C all fo r ‘C linical H o w -T o ‘ Submissions
Are you a clinical expert? Share that expertise through the

“Clinical How-To” column in MEDSURG Nursing. Desired topics for
this column in the coming year include tracheostomy care, care of the
patient with a chest tube, IV access devices, total hip protocol to avoid
dislocation (posterior approach), and neurovascular assessment. Please
contact journal Editor Dottie Roberts ( to dis­
cuss your interest and a possible timeline for submission.

22 january-February 2015 • Vol. 24/No. 1 MEDSURG N U R S I N G

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