Delirium Screening in Adult Critical Care Patients

Date of Conferral



Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)




Marisa Wilson


Delirium is an acute change in cognition accompanied by inattention, which affects up to 88% of adult critical care patients. Delirium causes increased hospital complications, longer lengths of hospital stay, functional disability, cognitive impairment, and increased mortality. The purpose of this evidence-based quality-improvement project was to implement and evaluate a delirium screening process in adult intensive care units at a large medical center. This included education of nurses, implementation of a structured, validated tool, and review of tool use documentation. The implementation of this project was guided by an evidence-based practice model, Disciplined Clinical Inquiry-© and Lewin's change theory. Evaluation of this quality-improvement project used audits of the electronic medical record. The audits included the presence and accuracy of delirium screening documentation in the patients' medical records. Results of 3 sequential documentation audits revealed a gradual adoption of this practice change by nurse clinicians. The percentage of charts with missing, incomplete, or inaccurate data decreased from 50% on the first week to 27.9% and 25.0% on the 2nd and 3rd weeks, respectively. These findings were an indication of practice change by validating the requirement for delirium screening on the units. In the first 3 weeks alone, 17 patient audits were positive for delirium, indicating the potential for poor short-term and long-term patient outcomes if not addressed promptly. Implementation of delirium screening ensures the dignity and worth of adult critical care patients by decreasing the poor outcomes associated with the diagnosis, which is an important contribution to positive social change.

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