Neuroscience patients frequently experience poor oral health and related complications because of motor and cognitive dysfunction and the side effects of treatments. Inadequate oral care increases plaque deposits, which can lead to inflammation, pain, and infection. These patients often depend on nurses for oral hygiene. In practice, nurses frequently delegate the delivery of oral care to unlicensed personnel, including nursing assistants, technicians, and student nurses. Few studies have addressed oral care interventions for neuroscience patients. This article identifies oral care interventions practiced by nurses and unlicensed personnel caring for neuroscience patients with self-care deficits. An investigator-designed survey instrument was used to obtain data from nurses and unlicensed personnel working with neuroscience patients in a large hospital. Participants responded to questions about products and agents used in care, frequency of care, documentation of care, patient risk factors, and system support issues such as availability of supplies. Data were analyzed using frequency distributions. Findings demonstrated that selection of products and agents used for oral care is not always evidence based, that provider preference leads to variations in type and frequency of care, and that system issues affect care. These findings suggest the need for increased attention to oral care for neuroscience patients. Research is needed to further examine the relationship between oral care interventions and patient outcomes.
Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Janet S. Fulton, PhD RN, by telephone at 317/274-2421 or at jasfulto@ iupui.edu.
Jennifer L. Cohn, MSN RN, is a clinical nurse specialist at Clarian Health in Indianapolis. Janet Fulton is an associate professor at Indiana University School of Nursing in Indianapolis.
© 2006 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses