Background: There is increasing urgency for nurses to recognize early signs of deterioration in patients and to take appropriate action to prevent serious adverse effects.
Objectives: To assess respondents' ability to identify abnormal recordings for respiratory and heart rate, oxygen saturation level, systolic blood pressure, level of consciousness, urinary output and normal temperature.
Design: A descriptive observational survey.
Setting: A nursing college in Cape Town, South Africa.
Participants: A sample of 77/212 (36.3%) fourth year students.
Methods: A self-administered adapted questionnaire was employed to collect demographic data and respondents' selections of recorded physiological values for the purpose of deciding when to call for more skilled help.
Results: The median age for 62/77 (80.5%) of the respondents was 25years; 3/76 (3.9%) had a previous certificate in nursing. Most respondents were female (66/76, 85.7%). Afrikaans was the first language preference of 33 (42.9%) respondents, followed by isiXhosa (31/77, 40.3%) and English (10/77, 13.0%). Most respondents (48/77, 62.3%) recognized a normal temperature reading (35-38.4°C). However, overall there would have been delays in calling for more skilled assistance in 288/416 (69.2%) instances of critical illness for a high-score MEWS of 3 and in 226/639 (35.4%) instances at a medium-score MEWS of 2 for physiological parameters. In 96/562 (17.1%) instances, respondents would have called for assistance for a low-score MEWS of 1.
Conclusions: Non-recognition of deterioration in patients' clinical status and delayed intervention by nurses has implications for the development of serious adverse events. The MEWS is recommended as a track-and-trigger system for nursing curricula in South Africa and for implementation in practice.
Keywords: Clinical decision-making; Early warning scoring (EWS) system; Patient safety; Vital sign monitoring.
Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.