Emergency nurses' perception of geriatric readiness in the ED setting: A mixed-methods study


INTRODUCTION: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 136.9 million ED visits in 2015, of which 21.4 million (15.6%) were by patients who were 65 or older. This US population demographic is expected to grow by 112% over the next 40 years, becoming just below 25% of the total US population. Emergency nurses will play an increasingly important part in the development of nursing care for geriatric patients. The purpose of this study was to explore emergency nurses' perception of their ability to care for geriatric patients in the emergency setting.

METHODS: This was a mixed-methods sequential design using quantitative survey data and qualitative focus group data, which were analyzed separately and then given equal priority during the data-interpretation phase.

RESULTS: Less than 50% of survey respondents (N = 1,610) reported geriatric-specific screenings, accommodations, and communication with outside agencies as "always available" in their care settings. Qualitative analysis (N = 23) yielded the categories of Triage/Assessment, Care in the Emergency Environment, Discharge Planning, and Facilitators and Barriers, which generally reflected the trajectory of care for the older patient. The overarching concern was keeping patients safe in both the community and in the emergency department.

DISCUSSION: Emergency departments should develop integrated systems to facilitate appropriate care of older patients. Identified barriers to improved care include a lack of integration between emergency care and community care, deficits in geriatric-specific education, inconsistent use of early screening for frailty, and lack of resources in the emergency care environment to intervene appropriately.

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