Research Corner: Myth vs. Reality: Do
Patients Need Repositioning When Specialty Beds Are in Use?
By Sue Barnason, RN, PhD, CCRN, CEN, CS
Research Work Group
Consider this: You and an orienting critical
care nurse are providing care for a 55-year-old male patient who has sepsis
following major bowel surgery for a ruptured diverticuli. His Braden score
indicates he is at high risk for pressure ulcer development, and you have placed
the patient on a mattress overlay per your hospital policy for prevention of
pressure ulcers. The orienting nurse comments, �This will really help him to be
more comfortable, plus then we won't need to reposition him while he has this
Patients on pressure-reducing surfaces do not
need to be repositioned.
Research has found that conventional hospital
beds are associated with poor pressure-relieving qualities and often contribute
to friction and shearing of the skin. The Agency for HealthCare Research and
Quality (AHRQ) guidelines and other research clearly advocate the use of
pressure-reducing surfaces for high-risk patients to decrease the risk of tissue
trauma that can precipitate pressure ulcers. Pressure ulcers are lesions caused
by unrelieved pressure resulting in damage to underlying tissue.
Pressure-reducing support surfaces, such as a mattress overlay, redistribute the
pressure of the patient's body over a larger surface area, which is also
referred to as reducing the interface pressure.
The primary, causative factor in pressure ulcer
development occurs when there is continued or sustained compression of the
tissue between the bony prominence and the surface on which the patient is
lying. While the recommendation to use a pressure-reducing surface is important,
it is equally important, and also recommended by the AHRQ guidelines, that
patients be repositioned regularly to offload pressure that occurs between the
bony prominence and the support surface. Remember that the mattress overlay
reducing the pressure is static, and therefore the interface pressure remains
constant when the patient is not moving or repositioned regularly, which results
in a potential for tissue breakdown.
When repositioning the patient, the AHRQ
guidelines recommend the use of the 30-degree, side-lying position to relieve
pressure on key pressure sites over the sacrum and trochanter.
The AHRQ guidelines on pressure-ulcer management
highlight the fact that no technology can take the place of good nursing care.
Although special equipment can help ensure more positive patient outcomes, the
ultimate achievement of these goals relies on sound nursing judgments and
Copies of the AHRQ guidelines on pressure-ulcer
management can be ordered online
Allman RM, Goode PS, Patrick MM, Burst N,
Bartolucci AA. Pressure ulcer risk factors among hospitalized patients with
activity limitations. JAMA. 1995;273:865-870.
Bergstrom N, Allman RM, Carlson CE, et al.
Pressure ulcers in adults: Prediction and prevention. Guideline Report No. 3 (AHCPR
Publication No. 93-0013). Rockville, Md: US Department of Health and Human
Bergstrom N, Braden BJ, Laguzza A, Holman V. The
Braden Scale for Predicting Pressure Sore Risk. Nurs Res. 1987;36:205-210.
Ek AC, Gustavsson G, Lewis DH. Skin blood flow
in relation to external pressure and temperature in the supine position on a
standard hospital mattress. Scand J Rehabil Med. 1987;19:121-126.
Feldman DL, Sepka RS, Klitzman B. Tissue
oxygenation and blood flow on specialized and conventional hospital beds. Ann
Plast Surg. 1993;30:441-444.
Harrison MB, Wells G, Fisher A, Prince M.
Practice guidelines for the prediction and prevention of pressure ulcers:
evaluating the evidence. Appl Nurs Res. 1996;9:9-17.
Holzapfel SK. Support surfaces and their use in
the prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers. J ET Nurs. 1993;20:251-260.
Jay R. Other considerations in selecting a
support surface. Adv Wound Care. Nov-Dec 1997;10:37-42.
Jiricka MK, Ryan P, Carvalho MA, Bukvich J.
Pressure ulcer risk factors in an ICU population. Am J Crit Care.
Maklebust J. An update on horizontal patient
support surfaces. Ostomy Wound Manage. 1999; 45(Suppl 1A):70S-77S.
Wind S, Happ E, Kerstein MD. Pressure ulcers:
collaboration in wound care: Is there a reasonable approach? Ostomy Wound
Manage. 1997;43:40-44, 46, 48-50.
Sharing the Experience: Publishing
Opportunity Was a Memorable Experience
Editor's Note: In celebration of the 10th
anniversary of the AACN Wyeth-Ayerst Nursing Fellows Program, AACN invited
alumni mentors and fellows to share their thoughts about and experiences with
the program. These accounts will be published in AACN News throughout this
By Mary S. McCarthy, RN, MN, CNSN
Being selected as a Wyeth-Ayerst fellow for 2000
was an incredible honor. I initially viewed the program simply as a way to
develop my writing skills and finally publish an article in a professional
journal. The yearlong experience helped me accomplish this and much more!
Even before my mentor and I were selected for
the program, I had admired and respected her scholarship, leadership and
professionalism. Our professional relationship grew yet stronger as I relied on
her for constructive criticism of my writing style and for feedback on the
content of the developing manuscript. She was there for me every step of the
When the May supplement to the American Journal
of Nursing arrived, I could hardly believe we had written the article as it
appeared. The organization of the article was perfect, the graphics were clean
and clear, and the final result was polished and professional, thanks to the
hardworking editors at AJN. It was a very proud moment for me.
Now, every time I submit a resume in connection
with a professional opportunity, I look at that publication listed there and
remember this wonderful opportunity. Because I have been conducting research in
the field of acute respiratory distress syndrome, having an article published
related to that topic helps validate my expertise.
I cannot say enough about the memorable events
honoring the mentors and fellows at the NTI in Orlando, Fla. You could almost
feel the special relationship that had developed between many mentors and
fellows as they spoke proudly of one another. The award celebrations, the gifts,
the accommodations, the food, the reserved seating, the early entrance to the
exhibits and the networking were just a few of the numerous rewards, and each
one was greatly appreciated.
I cannot remember another time in my nursing
career that I felt so honored for an accomplishment that I truly consider a
professional responsibility. We should all carefully select mentors to guide us
through challenges in our careers. And, as nurses, we must accept the
responsibility for sharing scientific knowledge and experiences that advance our
practice and serve our patients by publishing in our professional journals. I am
most grateful for having had this opportunity and I encourage my junior
colleagues to apply every time I see the spark of ambition and dedication so
aptly rewarded by AACN.
Initiatives to meet the needs of patients and
families are part of AACN's research agenda to promote the creation of cultures
of inquiry, broad sharing of research findings and evidence-based practice.
Toward that end, AACN offers several grants each year to fund studies that are
relevant to critical care nursing practice and that address one or more of
AACN's research priorities. These priorities were developed to guide research
and to provide a framework for identifying potential gaps in the development or
use of nursing knowledge. They are:
� Effective and appropriate use of technology to
achieve optimal patient assessment, management or outcomes
� Systems and interventions that create a
healing, humane environment
� Processes and systems that foster the optimal
contribution of critical care nurses
� Effective approaches to symptom management
� Prevention and management of complications in
critically ill patients
Following are grants for which application
deadlines are approaching:
Due Feb. 1, 2002
AACN Datex-Ohmeda Grant�funds up to $5,000 to
support research related to nutritional assessment of the critically ill
patient. Suggested topics include the impact of continuous metabolic monitoring,
assessment of the nutritional and metabolic condition, current practices of
nutritional assessment, use of the Harris-Benedict Equation vs. indirect
calorimetry in nutritional assessment, and evaluation of the accuracy or
efficacy of continuous metabolic monitoring.
AACN Certification Corporation Research
Grant�awards up to $10,000 for up to four studies related to certified practice.
Examples of eligible projects are studies that focus on continued competency,
the Synergy Model, the value of certification as it relates to patient care or
nursing practice, and credentialing concepts.
AACN Critical Care Grant�awards up to $15,000 to
support research that focuses on one or more of AACN's research priorities.
AACN Mentorship Grant�awards up to $10,000 to
provide support for a novice researcher, who will be directed by a mentor
experienced in the area of proposed investigation.
Due March 1, 2002
Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Grant�awards
multiple grants of up to $1,000 to stimulate the use of patient-focused data or
previously generated research findings to develop, implement and evaluate
changes in acute and critical care nursing practice. New projects, projects in
progress and projects required for an academic degree are eligible for funding.
Eligible projects may include research utilization studies, CQI projects or
outcomes evaluation projects. Interdisciplinary and collaborative projects are
Make a Difference: Discussion, Counseling
Can Help Clarify Patient's Wishes
By Benny Bolin, RN, ADN, MS
Ethics Work Group
Joe was a well-educated professional in his 50s,
whose wife of many years was his primary support person. He had a history of
heart and vascular problems that had been treated with multiple surgeries,
including an aortic aneurysm repair, a coronary artery bypass graft and an
aortic valve replacement. Unfortunately, these had not been successful in
eradicating his disease nor in significantly slowing its debilitating effects on
his health. He had completed a living will that stated he did not want to be
kept alive by artificial means and had discussed his wishes with his physician
and his wife.
After his last surgery, Joe had been transferred
to a rehabilitation facility. One morning, he was found to be in respiratory
distress, lethargic and hypotensive. He was transferred back to the acute care
hospital in pronounced respiratory distress with a diagnosis of sepsis. On
admission, his doctor wrote that Joe was in �respiratory distress and hypoxic.
Patient does not want to be intubated.� However, Joe suddenly had a change of
heart and, though he knew that treatment of any type would not have a positive
impact on the course of his disease, he agreed to intubation only if it was for
a short time.
Joe, who was moderately resilient and had good
response to his treatment, was able to be extubated. However, his underlying
condition left him physiologically vulnerable, and he soon developed even more
severe respiratory distress and was again struggling to breathe. As his
respiratory distress worsened, his respiratory rate increased to 50 and his
sputum became thick and blood tinged, yet his nurse stated that this time he
refused to be intubated.
His wife, who had his medical power of attorney
and had been very involved with his medical decisions and preplanning, became
overwhelmed by the change in his condition and was unable to support Joe's
previous decision. She asked that he be reintubated. The medical team complied.
When Joe awoke and found he had again been intubated and placed on a ventilator,
he was furious with the doctors, to whom he had expressly told his wishes, and
even more so with his wife, who had directed the team to reintubate him.
The ICU nurses called for an ethics consult
because they believed his reintubation was a clear violation of not only his
wishes, but also his expressly and duly completed living will. A meeting of the
healthcare team as well as a family conference was held to discuss his
straightforward wishes and treatment choices and to resolve the issue if
possible. Through rational and heartfelt discussions, the patient was able to
reconcile with his wife, and the team created a more comfortable extubation
plan. Joe died peacefully, with his wife at his side.
Clinical ethics consults take place for a wide
variety of reasons and in a variety of clinical contexts. Most occur in the
setting of a critical illness, where life hangs in the balance. Some occur when
the family wishes to stop a treatment that the physicians and nurses want to
continue. These are sometimes referred to as �right to die� cases. Others happen
when treatment options have been exhausted and the treatment team considers
further life-sustaining treatment futile, but the family wishes to continue.
These are often referred to as �futility consults.� Others occur when there are
disagreements about the course of care or the appropriate treatment options
offered to patients.
Because there is no system to ensure that these
consults will not be needed, the healthcare team must be proactive to ensure
that our profession best serves patients needs. Through proactive, preventive
actions, a more positive outcome can be achieved than if we wait and need to
revert to a reactive mode. �Preventive ethics� is a two-armed process, with an
early education arm (primary prevention) and a later arm intended to prevent
further problems from arising (secondary prevention).
The early education arm encompasses educating
the healthcare team, our patients and the public at large. Of course, avoiding
problems through appropriate education is preferable. However, if the education
of the general public is not successful, which history has shown to be the case,
the key is to educate those people caring for patients�primarily the nurses and
physicians. Through inservices, sharing of articles and the development of
quality and thorough ethics policies, many potential problems can be handled
before they become burdensome. When problems do arise, we should change our
focus from �preventive ethics� to the second arm, with a goal of preventing
further harm or a violation of a patient's autonomy, provision of nonbeneficial
treatments or failure to provide adequate palliative care.
Sometimes, emotions prevail, regardless of
planning and rational decision making. Although honoring Joe's original wishes
would have been preferable, the actions of the ICU nurses to involve the ethics
committee was key to resolving this case. Acting as patient advocates, ICU
nurses must use their knowledge, skills and caring attitudes to meet the needs
of their patients and families. Through innovative redirection of discussion and
refocusing of the team on patients and their desires, autonomy can be protected
and patients can be spared further suffering.
This type of intervention does not work in all
cases. However, in most, early intervention, discussion and counseling from a
multidisciplinary team can help a patient's family accept a patient's decision
and honor his or her wishes. The earlier this happens, the better. In this case,
though the end result was positive, early notification to the ethics committee
that the patient was acting contrary to his own advance directive might have
prevented some of the problems that did arise.
Personal Digital Assistant Can Be
By Sheila Melander, RN, DSN, ACNP, FCCM, and
Julie Marcum, RN, MS, CCRN, CS
Advanced Practice Work Group
As a cutting-edge, high-tech nursing
professional, you probably have thought about getting a personal digital
assistant (PDA). You probably have questions not only about its professional and
personal advantages but also about the types and capabilities of those that are
Following is an overview of the benefits of PDAs
as a professional resource and a list of Web sites you can visit to find out
Several features, such as e-mail, a calendar, to
do lists, an address book, a calculator, expense logs, handwriting recognition
and a memo pad, are built into the software that is preloaded in the PDA. In
fact, one advanced practice nurse said he purchased a PDA mainly because, unlike
his hand-written day-timer, the PDA provided an audible reminder of an impending
meeting or appointment. You can even download appointments from your desktop
computer to your PDA with a program, such as Microsoft Outlook, with just a push
of the �hot sync� button.
An excellent overview of the capabilities of the
PDA can be found online at
> PDAs &
Nursing and at
is an online journal as well as other useful information for nurses using PDAs.
Of course, you will want to explore the free
healthcare software that is available. To discover this �freeware,� search for
the keywords �palm medical freeware.� Although the list of sites is quite
lengthy, several stand out, including www.healthypalmpilot.com. This site
provides a healthcare resource index where you can find out about a number of
free as well as commercial software applications. It also rates each application
and describes the various attributes.
Multiple healthcare links can be found at
another useful site, pbrain.hypermart.net/medapps.html. Here you can also access
an area called Current Clinical Strategies, which will give you a list of
medical books in palm format, courtesy of the Library of the National Medical
Society. For a one-time charge of $9, you can download as many of these
references as desired. This site also lists numerous medical calculators, such
as ABG pro, Infusicalc (an IV drug calculator), MedMath (designed for rapid
calculation of common equations used in adult internal medicine such as body
surface area and creatinine clearance) and several statistical analysis
A widely known drug database is ePocrates RX (http://www.epocrates.com),
which also includes current ACLS algorithms. A �DocAlert� feature, which alerts
the practitioner to relevant Federal Drug Administration warnings concerning
pharmaceuticals, can be downloaded with every PDA hot sync.
Other useful pharmacology references include
Tarascons Pharmacopeia at
PDR.net can be customized for specific audiences, including consumers,
physicians, RNs, advanced practice nurses and pharmacists.
The 2000 Guide to Handheld and Palmtop Computing
Resources for Health Care Professionals reviews medical-nursing PDA software.
This online book, which costs $4.99, can be accessed at
Sites specific to advanced practice nurses are
NP Central (costs $25 per year);
Other advanced practice topics can be accessed
where there are multiple specialty links to areas such as advanced practice,
nursing, women's health, cardiology and critical care. Once you select one or
more of these specialty pages, they can be downloaded into you PDA with a
software called Medscape mobile.
Medscape mobile (http://www.medscape.com/mobile)
brings you current clinical content on any specialty you choose and includes
journal articles, journal scans and next-day summaries of conferences, such as
the American College of Cardiology, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners 16th
Annual National Conference, and the 30th International Educational and
Scientific Symposium of the Society of Critical Care Medicine.
References such as Harrison's Principles of
Internal Medicine ($99) and the Merck Manual ($79.99) can be purchased as well
as other commercial downloads at
Selected sites that specialize in PDA
accessories and devices include
Prices for PDAs are declining dramatically,
while the capabilities of these handheld devices continue to increase along with
the resources available. Projections are that PDAs will be even smaller, lighter
and more versatile and that they will be PowerPoint compatible, with increased
memory, more add-ons and longer-lasting batteries. A PDA will certainly increase
the information you have at your fingertips and enhance your professional
Practice Resource Network: Frequently
I achieved my CCRN certification almost three
years ago and am now ready to renew. How do I use continuing education units to
CCRN renewal candidates must have accumulated 100 continuing education
recognition points (CERPs) during the three-year certification period. One CE is
equal to 50 minutes of classroom time, which is equal to 1 CERP. For example, a
six-hour ACLS course is calculated as follows: 6 hours x 60 minutes = 360
minutes. Divide 360 by 50 to get 7 CERPs. In addition, candidates must hold a
current, unrestricted RN license and have at least 432 hours in direct bedside
care of critically ill patients during the three-year certification period, with
144 of these hours accrued in the most recent year preceding the renewal
What is the difference between Category A and O
Category A CERPs are earned by attending acute and critical care educational
programs or by completing academic credit courses specific to patient care.
Examples would be physical assessment, pathophysiology, pharmacology, ABG
interpretation, infection control or BLS/ACLS/PALS. Of the 100 CERPs required
for CCRN renewal, 25 must be in Category A. Category O CERPs are granted for a
broad range of activities, including professional publication, professional
presentations, professional memberships, volunteer activities, academic credit
courses (i.e., chemistry, psychology, sociology, medical Spanish), activities to
improve care (i.e., preceptorship; committee work; revising a nursing policy,
procedure or protocol; designing patient educational aids).
If you have a practice-related question, call
AACN's Practice Resource Network at (800) 394-5995, ext. 217, or post your
In the Circle: Award Honors Excellence in
The following excerpts are from exemplars
submitted in connection with the 3M Health Care-AACN Excellence in Clinical
Practice Award for 2001, a part of AACN's Circle of Excellence recognition
program. Sponsored by 3M Health Care, this award honors acute and critical care
nurses who embody, exemplify and excel at the clinical skills and principles
that are required in their practice. Recipients were provided complimentary
registration, airfare and hotel accommodations for NTI 2001 in Anaheim, Calif.
Lorna Garrison Benton, RN, BSN, CCRN
High Point, N.C.
High Point Regional Health Systems
Ralph, a 46-year-old factory worker, was
readmitted to our unit approximately two weeks after his first myocardial
When his physician asked him what his activity
level had been since discharge, he replied, �I went back to work the next day,
because I was feeling fine.� It was then that I realized I had failed in my
teaching efforts with Ralph during his first admission.
I decided I needed to devise a teaching tool
that patients could relate to and easily comprehend. Combining my ideas with
illustrations from a variety of nursing resources, I developed a color flip
chart to depict the post MI, pre- and postinvasive procedures.
This method of teaching has had a positive
impact on our patients. Patients who have completed and returned the Press Ganey
Satisfaction Survey have specifically mentioned how helpful this tool has been
During my 34 years in nursing, I have found that
improvisation works. Patient education and discharge teaching remain primary
functions for us. We strive to apply both old and new teaching techniques to
meet the patients' learning needs.
I often think of Ralph when I teach, because he
was such a great teacher for me. Of course, Ralph does not realize the
difference he made in my professional life nor the fact that his influence has
touched the lives of every patient and family member we teach in our unit.
Marcia A. DePolo, RN, CCRN, CNRN, ONC, TNCC
Inova Fairfax Hospital
Angela survived the critical phase of her
accident injuries and, after two weeks, was transferred from the trauma ICU to
intermediate care. Sometimes, sending patients to another level of care is
difficult, even though it means that they are improving.
Knowing that our patients have been precariously
balanced between life and death, we realize that our interventions have made a
difference. Although families often promise to keep in touch, we don't always
hear about how our patients' progress after they leave our care. Busy with the
next trauma, we have little time to follow up with these families with whom we
have shared intimate moments.
As her nurse, I felt a unique connection with
Angela, whose name means �messenger� in Greek. Because of her, I realized that,
if our unit had a �family book,� the patients would be remembered, and the
stories of courage and bravery could be shared with subsequent families.
As nurses, we carry special patient memories in
our hearts every day. In this Trauma ICU Family Thoughts Book, our families are
able to see evidence of this.
They know that, though they have left our
immediate environment, they are not forgotten. They know that they can write a
story, even a year later, to add to the book.
The nurses on our unit are also encouraged to
share their thoughts and to take photographs of patients when they come back for
a visit. We have started a lasting tribute to our patients and families.
Teresa Foulke, RN, CCRN
Laguna Hills, Calif.
Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center
My coworkers were already busy caring for two
newly admitted, critical trauma cases when my patient, Bill C., arrived in the
ICU. I realized that my assignment would be more of a solo effort than usual.
When Bill returned from surgery, he was
precariously close to dying. The immediate crises I faced in dealing with
hypoxia, severe hypotension and a climbing ICP were overwhelming. I had to
triage Bill's needs, selectively communicate and coordinate with other overtaxed
staff members and be vigilant in monitoring the patient's status. I was
inundated with the need to deal with physiological crises, assist with
procedures, prevent potential problems and communicate with members of the care
team and Bill's family.
Bill spent 22 more days in the ICU. Because our
unit has developed a strong sense of teamwork, staff members from many
disciplines contributed in unique ways to Bill's care and to his family. We all
felt we had made a difference.
Nevertheless, when he left the ICU, Bill was
only beginning to follow simple commands, and we didn't know how much he would
Although we learned that Bill was doing well in
rehabilitation, we heard little more until a smiling Bill came to the unit
several months later. We were delighted to learn that he was back at work in a
We knew that we had made a real difference when
he said that, though he did not remember his stay in the ICU, he wanted to take
a picture of the team that cared for him to send to his mom as her Mother's Day
Anna E. Lambert, RN, ADN, CCRN
Strong Memorial Hospital, University of
Critical care nurses face unexpected,
extraordinary events working in an ICU.
This exemplar recounts one of those situations,
when a nurse unexpectedly needs to accompany a patient requiring an air
ambulance transport to a heart transplant program.
Kevin, a college student, was suddenly taken
from his vibrant life because of a severe cardiomyopathy requiring biventricular
support and the anticipation of a heart transplant. He was intubated and on
nitric oxide and multiple drips. Because our unit did not have a transplant
program, Kevin needed to be transported to a facility that did.
The transfer of care was a challenge. We needed
to create safe passage in both the literal and figurative sense. A safe journey
would not have been possible without the synergistic efforts of a
Ultimate continuity of care was realized,
because an in-person report could be made upon arrival at the destination unit.
Kevin had a positive outcome. After receiving a new heart, he was able to return
to a productive life.
The challenges of critical care nursing, though
sometimes difficult, often allow us to reflect on our own destiny, strengthen
our skills for future complex patients, and reinforce how proud we are to be
critical care nurses.
M. Constance Roy, RN, BSc, CCRN
University of New Mexico Hospital
Frank was admitted to our unit following a lung
biopsy. He had had no previous significant medical history when he presented to
the emergency department with dyspnea.
For most of his hospitalization, his significant
other, Sue, was an important presence for him, reading to him and providing some
care to his unresponsive body. However, his worsening condition caused her
stress, with which she was unable to cope.
As Frank's terminal condition was confirmed and
he sank into multidisciplinary organ failure, the focus shifted to meeting the
needs of Sue. She had poor inner resources and a complete lack of support from
other family members.
We assisted Sue through the final and most
difficult hours of Frank's life. We identified the interdisciplinary support and
commented on how special it was to be the nurse to both Frank and Sue.