Identifying the barriers and enablers to palliative care nurses' recognition and assessment of delirium symptoms: A qualitative study

Annmarie Hosie, Elizabeth Lobb, Meera Agar, Patricia M. Davidson, Jane Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Context. Delirium is underrecognized by nurses, including those working in palliative care settings where the syndrome occurs frequently. Identifying contextual factors that support and/or hinder palliative care nurses' delirium recognition and assessment capabilities is crucial, to inform development of clinical practice and systems aimed at improving patients' delirium outcomes.

Objectives. The aim of the study was to identify nurses' perceptions of the barriers and enablers to recognizing and assessing delirium symptoms in palliative care inpatient settings.

Methods. A series of semistructured interviews, guided by critical incident technique, were conducted with nurses working in Australian palliative care inpatient settings. A hypoactive delirium vignette prompted participants' recall of delirium and identification of the perceived factors (barriers and enablers) that impacted on their delirium recognition and assessment capabilities. Thematic content analysis was used to analyze the qualitative data.

Results. Thirty participants from nine palliative care services provided insights into the barriers and enablers of delirium recognition and assessment in the inpatient setting that were categorized as patient and family, health professional, and system level factors. Analysis revealed five themes, each reflecting both identified barriers and current and/or potential enablers: 1) value in listening to patients and engaging families, 2) assessment is integrated with care delivery, 3) respecting and integrating nurses' observations, 4) addressing nurses' delirium knowledge needs, and 5) integrating delirium recognition and assessment processes.

Conclusion. Supporting the development of palliative care nursing delirium recognition and assessment practice requires attending to a range of barriers and enablers at the patient and family, health professional, and system levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)815-830
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Assessment
  • delirium
  • inpatient
  • nursing
  • palliative care
  • screening
  • systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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