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Int J Nurs Stud. 2003 May;40(4):437-48.

Nurses' experiences of the encounter with elderly patients in acute confusional state in orthopaedic care.

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Department of Nursing, University of Lund, P.O. Box 157, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden.


The aim of this study was to illuminate nurses' experiences of the encounter with elderly patients who developed acute confusional state (ACS) in orthopaedic care. Forty-eight nurses with professional background as registered (n=26) or licensed practical nurses (n=22) who took part in the nursing care of acute confused patients were involved. Open-ended unstructured interviews were conducted with regard to the course of events, experiences and interpretation of what had happened during the ACS as well as the nurses' actions and encounter with the confused patient. The texts were analysed using manifest and latent content analysis, revealing that the nurses had difficulties in reaching the patients and their reality, and thus in understanding their experiences. Interpretation of the nurses' experiences showed that the nurses found it difficult to reach the patients' reality because the patients were in a divided and/or different world. They interpreted the patients as seeking solitude or company, keeping a distance or being suspicious of the nurses. The findings indicated that the interaction in the encounter between the acutely confused patients and the nurses indicated insufficient and/or broken reciprocity. The nurses used various strategies to meet the patients, being a companion and/or being a surrogate. They acted in the encounter based on their view of the patient and their ability to enter into and understand the patients' situation. The strategies were more or less successful, sometimes resulting in contact and calming the patients and in other cases increasing the patients' irritation and anger. The results were more successful when the strategies were derived from the nurses' interpretation of the patients' situation and the nurses paid attention to the patients and confirmed them.

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