Challenges in conducting research with acutely ill hospitalized older patients

Nurs Health Sci. 2003 Dec;5(4):253-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1442-2018.2003.00159.x.


The older population is the largest consumer of health care, yet little is known about their nursing needs during acute hospitalization. In undertaking a study to address this issue, the researchers faced many challenges that were related to the complexities of researching acutely ill hospitalized older patients. The purpose of the present discussion paper is to present some of the methodological and pragmatic factors that were encountered so that health professionals and researchers can be aware of the potential obstacles when researching this important area, and plan research accordingly. Potential barriers included the complexity of illness in the older person as a result of comorbidity and iatrogenesis; fatigue; normal age-related processes such as visual/hearing impairment; frequent ward transfer or early discharge; delirium or dementia; and high staff turnover resulting in difficulties in coordinating the study. This paper raises the importance of balancing the need to maximize the rigor of research and the needs of participants. Recommendations for future research are made.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Age Factors
  • Aged / psychology*
  • Bias
  • Critical Illness / nursing
  • Critical Illness / psychology*
  • Delirium / complications
  • Dementia / complications
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Loneliness
  • Nursing Research / methods*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pilot Projects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors