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.