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Int J Older People Nurs. 2015 Dec;10(4):252-62. doi: 10.1111/opn.12075. Epub 2014 Dec 23.

Orchestrating care: nursing practice with hospitalised older adults.

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Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Nursing, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
School of Nursing, UBC, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.



The increased incidence of health challenges with aging means that nurses are increasingly caring for older adults, often in hospital settings. Research about the complexity of nursing practice with this population remains limited.


To seek an explanation of nursing practice with hospitalised older adults.


Design. A grounded theory study guided by symbolic interactionism was used to explore nursing practice with hospitalised older adults from a nursing perspective. Glaserian grounded theory methods were used to develop a mid-range theory after analysis of 375 hours of participant observation, 35 interviews with 24 participants and review of selected documents.


The theory of orchestrating care was developed to explain how nurses are continuously trying to manage their work environments by understanding the status of the patients, their unit, mobilising the assistance of others and stretching available resources to resolve their problem of providing their older patients with what they perceived as 'good care' while sustaining themselves as 'good' nurses. They described their practice environments as hard and under-resourced. Orchestrating care is comprised of two subprocesses: building synergy and minimising strain. These two processes both facilitated and constrained each other and nurses' abilities to orchestrate care.


Although system issues presented serious constraints to nursing practice, the ways in which nurses were making meaning of their work environment both aided them in managing their challenges and constrained their agency.


Nurses need to be encouraged to share their important perspective about older adult care. Administrators have a role to play in giving nurses voice in workplace committees and in forums. Further research is needed to better understand how multidisciplinary teams influence care of hospitalized older adults.


acute care system; care of older people; nursing care; workforce issues

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