Dementia Education: Does It Change Nursing Practice?

Although gerontological nurses are well positioned to care for older adults with dementia, barriers to implementing quality client care remain, including: limited knowledge, poor morale among care staff, lack of professional development opportunities, and unsuitability of acute care hospitals for this client group | Journal of Gerontological Nursing

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The solution most commonly offered is education. Many academic institutions, health care facilities, and even professional associations offer educational activities. The literature is rich with descriptions of activity formats, from workshops of less than 1 hour in duration to courses provided over 12 months or longer, offered in face-to-face format, print, or via online learning. Exceptional educational activities might be described as having a high degree of transference, meaning that the information learned in these activities can be easily applied to gerontological nursing practice.

Yet, I question whether these activities actually change nursing practice. Based on my review of the literature, most educational activities are evaluated in terms of attitude shifts, knowledge gained, and/or satisfaction with course content—few speak to changes in the quality of care provided to older adults with dementia. One reason may be that a large proportion of the published literature on the topic of dementia workforce education describes research studies, which are often by definition initiated by individuals external to a facility, time-limited, and not always sustainable. If we are to face the challenge of demographic aging and the projected increase it will bring in the number of older adults living with dementia, academic and health and human service organizations will need to ensure that their nursing workforce has the knowledge and, more importantly, the skills required to perform their work. However, the value of educational activities in determining clinical interventions and subsequently evaluating the direct effects of these interventions on outcomes for older adults with dementia has been limited.

Full reference: Hirst, S.P. (2017) Dementia Education: Does It Change Nursing Practice? Journal of Gerontological Nursing. Vol 43 (Issue 7) pp. 2-3

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