Aim: to assess nurses' knowledge and practices concerning oral care on surgical and medical wards in a district general hospital in Ireland.
Methods: a survey of all qualified nurses on three medical and three surgical wards was carried out. Two hundred questionnaires were distributed and 50 were returned with 43 of these rendered useable.
Results: the majority of nurses (90%) viewed oral care as an important aspect of nursing care. However, nurses lacked adequate knowledge of oral care practices, and experienced problems attending to oral care as a result of time constraints, lack of oral care packs, patients being confused or uncooperative, lack of toothpaste and toothbrush, limited education and low status attached to oral care. Although most nurses (over 70%) had received education on oral care, this was of short duration. Sixty-four per cent did not use an assessment tool to measure the condition of the patient's oral cavity, while 73% believed that an assessment tool would be important to measure a baseline of the condition of the patient's oral cavity.
Conclusion: although oral care is an essential component of quality nursing care, it appears to be given low priority by some nurses. This study indicates the need for educational updates for qualified nurses, adequate supply of oral care equipment and promotion of formal assessment tools usage in the hospital setting.