The objectives of this study were to (1) determine how congruent community-provided leg ulcer care was with best practice for venous leg ulcers and (2) identify organizational and clinical factors associated with the provision of best practice for venous leg ulcers.
The practice variation study group was an audit of nursing agency client records to determine the provision of care.
Setting and subjects
The study population was a home care cohort of persons with venous leg ulcers (n = 66) who received care from one Ontario home care nursing agency between March 1999 and November 1999.
The audit tool was developed with a checklist reflecting the common recommendations from 3 international practice guidelines, as well as organizational and clinical factors that may influence or reflect best practice.
Half of client records (35/66) included an identified etiology of the leg ulcer. An Ankle Brachial Pressure Index score was documented prior to the initiation of compression on fewer than half of the records (21/44). Regular ulcer measurement was done for 11% of the clients (7/64). Two thirds of the clients (44/66) were treated with compression. More than 60% of the clients (40/66) had been seen by either a dermatologist or a vascular surgeon. Topical antibiotics were prescribed for two thirds of clients (44/64). Fifteen percent of clients (10/66) were assessed for pain, and 17% (11/66) received some form of pain management. Documentation of client education specific to the leg ulcer was present on 3% of records (2/66). The mean number of different nurses providing leg ulcer care to each client was 19. A registered practical nurse was the classification of nurse assigned to 43.8% (29/66) of the clients.
Several gaps were identified in the care provided. A standardized approach to care is needed that includes a comprehensive leg ulcer assessment to determine the ulcer etiology, determination of an Ankle Brachial Pressure Index score to screen for the presence of arterial disease, and compression for all clients who meet the criteria for venous disease. A reorganization of services is required, which includes an increased role for community nurses in leg ulcer assessment and management. Organizational and clinical factors influencing the delivery of best practice need to be identified and addressed.