Nurse Education: Improving Quality of Care for Intellectually Disabled Adults in the Acute Care Setting

Monday, 30 October 2017: 4:05 PM

Donna Harmon, DNP
Heart and Vascular Services, Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, MA, USA

The U.S. Surveillance of Health of People with Intellectual Disabilities, A White Paper (2009), reported people with intellectual disability (PWID) are more likely to have complex conditions, limited access, missed cancer screenings, poorly managed chronic conditions, undetected poor vision, and mental health issues. Research has shown there continues to be a gap in the educational preparation of healthcare providers in the care of people with intellectually disabilities; this gap contributes to the substandard quality of care, and increased morbidity and mortality. Best practices for this population include education of the healthcare provider. Education can result in changes in attitudes, perceived knowledge, comfort level, and skills in caring for people with intellectual disabilities (Friese & Ailey, 2015; Jones et al., 2015; Read & Rushton, 2013).

A quality improvement project aimed at improving the knowledge and practices of acute care nurses caring for adults with intellectual disabilities was conducted at an academic medical center. Baseline data from the nurses revealed limited knowledge and experience in caring for adults with intellectual disabilities in the acute care setting. The objectives of a two-hour educational program provided to nurses were to articulate the best practices in caring for this patient population, discuss the patient and family needs, explain the nursing challenges caring for this population, identify 2 Signs/symptoms of the most common medical complications associated with this population, list 3 strategies for caring for this population and recognize the unique needs of this patient population. After the training nurses reported increased knowledge, 94.4% of the attendees were inspired to learn more about the subject and 88.9% reported they would apply the new knowledge to their practice.

Improving the knowledge and skill set of the nurses caring for the intellectually disabled adult in the acute care setting improves the quality of care and has the potential to decrease the morbidity and mortality rate. This program further supports the need for expanding nursing curriculums to include the care of this population over the lifespan.

This educational program was recorded and uploaded to the hospital employee YouTube channel to enable continued education of additional nurses and sustainability of the quality improvement program.