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Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2012 Jun;11(2):231-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcnurse.2011.04.005. Epub 2012 Mar 6.

Recognition and referral of depression in patients with heart disease.

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St Vincent's Centre for Nursing Research & Cardiovascular Research Centre, Australian Catholic University.



Routine screening and assessment for depression occurs rarely in clinical practice for a variety of reasons, including the absence of systems to facilitate the process.


To identify nurses' knowledge and practice regarding depression screening and referral for cardiac patients following the implementation of education workshops and a validated screening tool with referral actions.


Pre and post-test design using surveys and semi-structured interviews was conducted with a purposive sample of nurses in a large Australian metropolitan tertiary referral hospital. Prior to the introduction of the screening and referral tool, nurses engaged in an interactive one hour education workshop on the topic of depression and the tool; introduced to improve depression screening following an acute cardiac event.


In the pre and post-survey 40 and 30 nurses, respectively, participated with 14 also engaging in semi-structured interviews. Eighty percent reported a 'good' understanding of depression post-program compared to 30% at baseline. Sixty percent reported routinely using the depression screening and referral tool. The interviews identified three main themes that supported the utility of the education and instrument: knowledge improvement; perceived self-efficacy and new knowledge into practice.


The vast majority of participants reported increased skill, knowledge and confidence to screen and refer for depression post an acute cardiac event. The substantial increase in the number of nurses who engaged in screening and referral actions further demonstrated the success of the program. These encouraging results provide evidence that screening for depression can be achieved through adopting formalised processes.

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