Improving delirium recognition and assessment for people receiving inpatient palliative care: a mixed methods meta-synthesis

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background Delirium is a serious acute neurocognitive condition frequently occurring for hospitalized patients, including those receiving care in specialist palliative care units. There are many delirium evidence-practice gaps in palliative care, including that the condition is under-recognized and challenging to assess. Objectives To report the meta-synthesis of a research project investigating delirium epidemiology, systems and nursing practice in palliative care units. Methods The Delirium in Palliative Care (DePAC) project was a two-phase sequential transformative mixed methods design with knowledge translation as the theoretical framework. The project answered five different research questions about delirium epidemiology, systems of care and nursing practice in palliative care units. Data integration and metasynthesis occurred at project conclusion. Results There was a moderate to high rate of delirium occurrence in palliative care unit populations; and palliative care nurses had unmet delirium knowledge needs and worked within systems and team processes that were inadequate for delirium recognition and assessment. The meta-inference of the DePAC project was that a widely-held but paradoxical view that palliative care and dying patients are different from the wider hospital population has separated them from the overall generation of delirium evidence, and contributed to the extent of practice deficiencies in palliative care units. Conclusion Improving palliative care nurses' capabilities to recognize and assess delirium will require action at the patient and family, nurse, team and system levels. A broader, hospital-wide perspective would accelerate implementation of evidence-based delirium care for people receiving palliative care, both in specialist units, and the wider hospital setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-129
Number of pages7
JournalInternational journal of nursing studies
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • Assessment
  • Delirium
  • Inpatients
  • Palliative care
  • Screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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