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Nurse Educ Pract. 2019 Jul;38:79-83. doi: 10.1016/j.nepr.2019.06.007. Epub 2019 Jun 12.

An exploration of student nurses' views of oral health care in the hospitalised child: A qualitative study.

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Alderhey Children's Hospital, UK. Electronic address:
Liverpool John Moores University, UK. Electronic address:


Hospitalization impacts negatively on oral health, where underlying medical conditions and interventions such as oxygen therapy and nil-by-mouth status increase susceptibility to complications. However, evidence suggests it is often overlooked, or viewed as low priority by nurses. The rationale for these beliefs is unclear. This study provides an exploration of these beliefs, focusing specifically on their development, as reflected in the experiences of adult and paediatric student nurses. Three focus groups were conducted, and thematic analysis applied. Whilst students theoretically understood the value of oral health care, in hospital it was overlooked, with other 'clinical' aspects of care valued more highly. 'Hierarchy of need' emerged as the over-arching theme. Interrelated sub-themes included: 'practice/theory mismatch,' highlighting lack of education and adequacy of exposure to oral health care encounters; 'resources,' where infrastructure was lacking; and 'disempowerment,' where students felt powerless to act. Exposure to oral health care encounters were less frequent in the paediatric setting, risking disempowerment of parents as well as students. These findings highlight the need to raise the profile of oral health care, both theoretically and practically, engendering a culture that embeds mouth care unobtrusively into day-to-day nursing practice, improving health care outcomes for those in our care.


Child nursing; Focus groups; Nursing; Nursing education; Oral health; Qualitative

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