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CHOPR: Surgical Patients with Dementia Fare Better with Higher Educated Nurses

A new study found that surgical patients with coexisting Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) are more likely to die within 30 days of admission and to die following a complication compared with patients without ADRD. Having more nurses with at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the bedside improved the likelihood of good outcomes for all patients, but it had a much greater effect for patients with ADRD.

This study – just published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society – is the first to examine the effects of clinician education on surgical outcomes for patients with ADRD. It included more than 350,000 Medicare beneficiaries who underwent general, orthopedic, or vascular surgery in one of 531 hospitals in California, Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. 

“Patients with dementia are clinically complex and vulnerable, and nurses play a key role in monitoring and protecting these individuals from unwanted complications such as delirium and pneumonia after surgery,” said lead-author Elizabeth White, of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research (CHOPR) at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing). “To do this, nurses must be able to think critically, problem solve, and work well within interdisciplinary teams. These are all competencies emphasized in bachelor degree nursing programs.”

This study was funded by: the National Institute on Aging, the National Institutes of Health, the Eunice Shriver Kennedy National Institute of Child Health and Development Population Research Infrastructure Program, the Boettner Center for Pensions and Retirement Security, and the National Institute of Nursing Research.