Background: The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) is a neurological instrument, which measures the “depth and duration of impaired consciousness.” The appeal of the GCS lies in its applicability in a wide variety of clinical situations as well as its ease of use by a range of healthcare staff. However, the GCS is not without its weaknesses and limitations. Its ease of use opens it up to misinterpretation and misapplication. Despite the propensity for incorrect assessment, the GCS remains in use in the clinical setting and enjoys an “unwarranted and privileged position.” This creates an issue to patient care as the GCS is an important instrument in communicating an accurate assessment of the patient’s condition between clinical staff.
Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate nurses’ knowledge in using the GCS and the demographic factors influencing knowledge of the GCS.
Methodology: This is a correlational observational study conducted in one acute care hospital in Singapore. The participants were registered nurses involving in bedside nursing care. A self-administered questionnaire was provided to the participants via ward managers. The quantitative responses were collated and analyzed using SPSS 16.0.
Results: Type of clinical discipline (i.e., neuroscience, general medicine, and neurointensive care unit; beta = 0.51, p < .001) and the length of experience in a neuroscience setting (beta = 0.22, p = .005) were significant in determining a nurses’ knowledge of the GCS. Nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit scored the highest mean scores (12.7), whereas nurses from the general medicine wards scored the lowest mean scores (9.7). Nurses who worked in a neuroscience setting for 6 years or more scored higher mean scores (11.9) on the knowledge scale, whereas nurses who worked in a neuroscience setting for less than a year scored lower mean scores (10.0).
Conclusion: Educational interventions and guidelines in performing GCS assessment are suggested to maintain and improve knowledge in performing the GCS.
Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Ihsan Mattar, RN BSc. (Hons), at email@example.com. He is a PhD Candidate, Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore.
Sok Ying Liaw, PhD RN MHSc, is an Assistant Professor, Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore.
Moon Fai Chan, PhD CStat, is an Associate Professor, Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore.
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.