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J Clin Nurs. 2005 Jul;14(6):776-85.

From the emergency department to home.

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  • 1Nursing Department, Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, Ireland.



The purpose of this study was to explore dimensions of the management of the older person following care in an emergency department in preparation for discharge home by identifying perceptions and attitudes of staff in both emergency department and primary care sectors.


It is recognized that older people discharged home directly from the emergency department are a vulnerable group. Effective communication and liaison are seen to be keys to the provision of high quality care for older people in the emergency department and in ensuring a seamless care between sectors.


A purposeful sample was collected that comprised the total population (n = 222) of all grades of medical and nursing staff in both the emergency department and all nursing (Public Health Nurses & Practice nurses) and medical staff (General Practitioners) in the primary care area.


Methodology used was that of a survey approach of nursing and medical staff in both the emergency department and primary care services. Standardized questionnaires were employed which comprised both open and closed questioning style. Raw statistical data were analysed using SPSS for Windows while the qualitative data arising from the open-ended questions were content analysed for themes.


Many staff in the primary care area reported the level of communication between the emergency department and the primary care area as unsatisfactory with confusion regarding follow-up care and a lack of support for older people on discharge. Hospital staff reported the level of communication to be much greater than that perceived by their colleagues in primary care. There was agreement of staff in both sectors in relation to the perceived usefulness of a discharge liaison nurse in the emergency department.


Previous research highlights communication difficulties when patients are discharged from hospital. Findings from this study indicate that this problem can also be applied to the emergency department.


Implications for practice include a need for a multidisciplinary approach to developing referral guidelines, staff training and a comprehensive dissemination of information between sectors ultimately to improve quality and continuity of care for the older person.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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