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Nurses’ Education Makes a Difference for Dementia Patients

By | March 23rd, 2018

Could nurses with better training change the way dementia patients recover from surgery? A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggests a nurse’s education has an impact on surgery outcomes for dementia patients.

The study found that patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias were more likely to die within 30 days of admission or following a complication than those without a dementia diagnosis. That follows what other studies have found about dementia patients having worse outcomes in hospitals—like death and readmission—and longer stays than those without dementia, even when they’re the same age and admitted for similar reasons. But this study found that one thing can have a positive effect on dementia patients: more nurses who held a bachelor of science in nursing or higher degree.

Patients with and without dementia improved when a nurse on their case had a B.S., but for patients with dementia, that improvement was significant. For each 10 percent increase in nurses with a B.S. on staff, patient deaths within 30 days without dementia decreased by 4 percent, while patient deaths with dementia decreased by 10 percent. Deaths as a result of complications decreased by 5 percent in patients without dementia, and by 10 percent in patients with dementia for every 10 percent increase of B.S. nurses on staff.

Training in B.S. nursing programs emphasizes skills necessary when assessing dementia patients, said the study author, compared to the training nurses receive as a Licensed Practical Nurse or a nurse with an associate’s degree.

“Patients with dementia are clinically complex and vulnerable, and nurses play a key role in monitoring and protecting these individuals from unwanted complications such as delirium and pneumonia after surgery,” said lead author Elizabeth White, of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. “To do this, nurses must be able to think critically, problem solve, and work well within interdisciplinary teams. These are all competencies emphasized in bachelor degree nursing programs.”

The study drew conclusions from 353,333 Medicare beneficiaries who underwent general, orthopedic, or vascular surgery in one of 531 hospitals in California, Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Read the full study here.

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