Background: Despite practice guidelines promoting delirium assessment in intensive care, few data exist regarding current delirium assessment practices among nurses and how these practices compare with those for sedation assessment.
Objectives: To identify current practices and perceptions of intensive care nurses regarding delirium assessment and to compare practices for assessing delirium with practices for assessing sedation.
Methods: A paper/Web-based survey was administered to 601 staff nurses working in 16 intensive care units at 5 acute care hospitals with sedation guidelines specifying delirium assessment in the Boston, Massachusetts area.
Results: Overall, 331 nurses (55%) responded. Only 3% ranked delirium as the most important condition to evaluate, compared with altered level of consciousness (44%), presence of pain (23%), or improper placement of an invasive device (21%). Delirium assessment was less common than sedation assessment (47% vs 98%, P < .001) and was more common among nurses who worked in medical intensive care units (55% vs 40%, P = .03) and at academic centers (53% vs 13%, P < .001). Preferred methods for assessing delirium included assessing ability to follow commands (78%), checking for agitation-related events (71%), the Confusion Assessment Method for the Intensive Care Unit (36%), the Intensive Care Delirium Screening Checklist (11%), and psychiatric consultation (9%). Barriers to assessment included intubation (38%), complexity of the tool for assessing delirium (34%), and sedation level (13%).
Conclusions: Practice and perceptions of delirium assessment vary widely among critical care nurses despite the presence of institutional sedation guidelines that promote delirium assessment.