Implementation of an Intensive Care Unit Delirium Protocol: An Interdisciplinary Quality Improvement Project

Jessica Marino, Donald Bucher, Michael Beach, Balaji Yegneswaran, Brad Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Delirium is a commonly observed problem for adult patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) that is associated with increased mortality, increased hospital length of stay, and long-term disability of ICU survivors. This makes prevention and prompt treatment of delirium imperative goals for critical-care providers. Bedside critical-care nurses are uniquely poised to champion efforts to prevent, detect, and treat delirium but oftentimes are not aware of the most recent evidence-based guidelines or the potential long-term implications for the ICU survivor. Nurses have reported higher levels of confidence in detecting delirium, increased knowledge of delirium, and enhancement of patient care skills after receiving formal didactic educational training. Objectives: The objectives of this quality improvement project were to develop, implement, and evaluate a nursing education program for critical-care nurses that presented a protocol for the prevention and management of delirium in adult ICU patient populations, as well as improve nurses' familiarity, comfort, and compliance with using a standardized evaluation method for delirium and intervention care bundle. Design: A didactic training program for bedside critical-care nurses was developed and implemented. Upon completion of the educational sessions, a daily bedside delirium screening and care bundle protocol were implemented for all patients in ICUs throughout the facility. Participants: Bedside critical-care nurses were invited to participate in the formal teaching sessions. This included nursing staff from each of the 3 ICUs in this facility, as well as supplemental "float pool" staff. Measurements: Pre-educational and posteducational nursing attitudes and self-perceived confidence levels regarding delirium care were measured using a 5-point Likert scale. Pre-educational and posteducational nursing knowledge was measured using raw scores obtained from a 15-item multiple choice test. Following the implementation of the delirium screening and care bundle protocol, nursing staff compliance with screening and care bundle items was measured, as well as overall incidence of positive delirium screenings among all screenings completed. Results: A sample of 49 nurses participated in the formal educational teaching sessions. All 5 nursing attitude and perceived confidence statements measured before and after the educational sessions showed a significant increase in positive perceptions overall (P <.0001). Overall mean posteducation knowledge test raw scores showed a significant improvement from pre-educational scores (70% ± 12.8% vs 95% ± 6.9%; P <.0001). Once-daily ICU delirium screenings and care bundle interventions were initiated for all ICU patients; overall compliance during the measurement period was 56.3% (598 of 1061 possible delirium screenings and protocols completed). Of all daily patient screenings performed, 20.4% resulted positive for ICU delirium. All patients who received the care bundle interventions received the interventions uniformly, regardless of clinical delirium status. Conclusion: This quality improvement project demonstrates that a formal didactic training program for ICU nurses can result in increased awareness and knowledge of ICU delirium and adequately prepare them for how to properly screen and treat patients. Although overall compliance with implementing daily ICU delirium screenings and care bundle interventions was relatively low, those patients who did receive screening and interventions demonstrated that the incidence of positive delirium screenings at this facility is low compared with reported figures. In addition, patients who did receive the appropriate care bundle interventions did so in a uniform manner, regardless of the presence or absence of clinical delirium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-284
Number of pages12
JournalDimensions of Critical Care Nursing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 21 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Emergency
  • Critical Care


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