Overview: Hospitalized patients who are suffering from cognitive impairment, delirium, suicidal ideation, traumatic brain injury, or another behavior-altering condition are often placed under continuous observation by designated “sitters.” These patients may become agitated, which can jeopardize their safety even when a sitter is present. This quality improvement project was based on the hypothesis that agitation can be decreased by engaging these patients in individualized therapeutic activities. The authors created a tool that allowed continuous observers to identify a patient's abilities and interests, and then offer such activities to the patient. Data were collected using a scale that measured patient agitation before, during, and after these activities. The authors found that during the activities, 73% of patients had decreased levels of agitation compared with baseline, and 64% remained less agitated for at least one hour afterward.
The intervention appeared effective in reducing levels of agitation in selected patients who were receiving continuous observation on nonpsychiatric units at a large, urban level 1 trauma center. Many patients expressed gratitude for the diversion from their health issues. Further investigation into the effectiveness of this intervention and its impact on the use of medications or restraints is warranted.