Researchers launch new delirium project
Nursing experts lead delirium detection and treatment plans
Professor Victoria Traynor from the University of Wollongong’s School of Nursing and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) and Professor Val Wilson from UOW and the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) have launched a new project aimed at detecting delirium in post-operative patients.
“Delirium is usually very short term and self-corrects, but for a significant percentage of patients, especially those over 65, it can go undetected,” Professor Wilson said.
The project is focused on Bega, Wollongong and St George hospitals with hopes a state-wide detection protocol will be rolled out by 2022.
Professor Traynor explained the three locations, one metropolitan, one regional and one rural, were chosen to reflect a diverse patient pool.
“We chose areas with patients from culturally and linguistically diverse, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, so we can accurately reflect hospitals across all of New South Wales,” Professor Traynor said.
The project looks at developing a protocol for nurses to use as a screening tool to test for delirium after surgery, which Professor Traynor said often goes undiagnosed.
“There is an assumption, especially in older patients, that delirium must be dementia. If delirium goes untreated, the patient can become more confused and agitated, leading to further health problems including falls and longer hospital stays,” she said.
The project focuses on identifying underlying conditions that could cause delirium, including infection, dehydration, malnutrition, uncontrolled diabetes and polypharmacy.
“This work should be able to be undertaken by regular staff using our own resources, as these are all preventable conditions,” Professor Traynor said.
The initial project was funded through a NSW Health Translational Research Grant secured in 2019.
“One of the really exciting parts of this translational grant is capacity building for nurses around the research, as well as in the recognition of post-operative delirium, and the potential they have to influence care for patients,” said Professor Wilson.
Professor Traynor has hopes to expand the training across more health districts throughout the state.
“Receiving this grant proves that this research is valuable, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate,” she said.
“We really want to raise awareness around detecting and treating delirium through a sustainable model.”
Picture: Delerium researchers (left to right:) Dr Jessica Nealon, Jessica Bresolin, Nicole Britten, Professor Val Wilson, Dr Rita Chang, Professor Victoria Traynor, and Associate Professor Ping Yu.