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Crit Care Med. 2005 Jun;33(6):1199-205.

Large-scale implementation of sedation and delirium monitoring in the intensive care unit: a report from two medical centers.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Allergy/Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine, and Center for Health Services Research, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.



To implement sedation and delirium monitoring via a process-improvement project in accordance with Society of Critical Care Medicine guidelines and to evaluate the challenges of modifying intensive care unit (ICU) organizational practice styles.


Prospective observational cohort study.


The medical ICUs at two institutions: the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and a community Veterans Affairs hospital (York-VA).


Seven hundred eleven patients admitted to the medical ICUs for >24 hrs and followed over 4,163 days during a 21-month study period.


Unit-wide nursing documentation was changed to accommodate a sedation scale (Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale) and delirium instrument (Confusion Assessment Method for the ICU). A 20-min introductory in-service was performed for all ICU nurses, followed by graded, staged educational interventions at regular intervals. Data were collected daily for compliance, and randomly 40% of nurses each day were chosen for accuracy spot-checks by reference raters. An implementation survey questionnaire was distributed at 6 months.


The implementation project involved 64 nurses (40 at VUMC and 24 at York-VA). Sedation and delirium monitoring data were recorded for 711 patients (614 at VUMC and 97 at York-VA). Compliance with the Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale was 94.4% (21,931 of 23,220) at VUMC and 99.7% (5,387 of 5,403) at York-VA. Compliance with the Confusion Assessment Method for the ICU was 90% (7,323 of 8,166) at VUMC and 84% (1,571 of 1,871) at York-VA. The Confusion Assessment Method for the ICU was performed more often than requested on 63% of shifts (5,146 of 8,166) at VUMC and on 8% (151 of 1871) of shifts at York-VA. Overall weighted-kappa between bedside nurses and references raters for the Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale were 0.89 (95% confidence interval, 0.88 to 0.92) at VUMC and 0.77 (95% confidence interval, 0.72 to 0.83) at York-VA. Overall agreement (kappa) between bedside nurses and reference raters using the Confusion Assessment Method for the ICU was 0.92 (95% confidence interval, 0.90-0.94) at VUMC and 0.75 (95% confidence interval, 0.68-0.81) at York-VA. The two most-often-cited barriers to implementation were physician buy-in and time.


With minimal training, the compliance of bedside nurses using sedation and delirium instruments was excellent. Agreement of data from bedside nurses and a reference-standard rater was very high for both the sedation scale and the delirium assessment over the duration of this process-improvement project.

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