Reports From the Field

Impact of an Educational Training Program on Restorative Care Practice of Nursing Assistants Working with Hospitalized Older Patients



• Background: Acute and prolonged exposure to hospital medical care can cause hospital-associated deconditioning with deleterious effects on patient care provision and quality of life. Physical rehabilitation provided by allied healthcare professionals can enable reacquisition of function via professional input into attainment of set goals. Separate to rehabilitative efforts, restorative care optimizes independence by motivating individuals to maintain and restore function. Nursing assistants (NAs) provide a significant amount of direct patient care and are well placed to deliver restorative care.

• Objective: To increase proportional restorative care interactions with hospitalized older adults by training NAs.

• Methods: A prospective cohort quality improvement (QI) project was undertaken at 3 acute hospital wards (patient minimum age 65 years) and 2 community subacute care wards in the UK. NAs working within the target settings received a 2-part restorative care training package. The primary evaluation tool was 51 hours in total of observation measuring the proportional change in restorative care events delivered by NAs.

• Results: NA-led restorative care events increased from 40 (pre-intervention) to 94 (post-intervention), representing a statistically significant proportional
increase from 74% to 92% (χ2(1) 9.53, P = 0.002). NAs on occasions inadvertently emphasized restriction of function to manage risk and oblige with rest periods.

• Conclusion: Investing in NAs can influence the amount of restorative care delivered to hospitalized older adults at risk of hospital-associated deconditioning. Continued investment in NAs is indicated to influence top-down, mandated restorative care practice in this patient group.

Key words:  older people; restorative care; hospital associated deconditioning; nursing assistants; rehabilitation; training.

Hospital-associated deconditioning is defined as a significant decline in functional abilities developed through acute and prolonged exposure to a medical care facility environment, and is independent of that attributed to primary pathologies resulting in acute admission [1]. Considerable research on iatrogenic complications in older hospitalized populations [1–5] has shown the impacts of hospital-associated deconditioning and associated dysfunctions on quality of life for patients and the resultant burden on health and social care provision [6].

Physical rehabilitation has been shown to restore function through high-dose repetition of task-specific activity [7], and the benefits attributed to extra physical therapy include improved mobility, activity, and participation [8]. Simply defined, physical rehabilitation is the reacquisition of function through multidisciplinary assessment and professional therapeutic input in attainment of set goals. A more recent nomenclature in health settings is “restorative care,” defined as a philosophy of care that encourages, enables, and motivates individuals to maintain and restore function, thereby optimizing independence [9]. It has been clearly defined as a philosophy separate from that of rehabilitation [9] and remote from task-related or “custodial care,” which is designed to assist in meeting patients’ daily activity needs without any therapeutic value.

In UK rehabilitation wards, nursing staff provide 4.5 times as much direct patient care time compared with allied health professionals, with paraprofessional nursing assistants (NAs, equivalent to certified nurse assistants [CNAs] in the United States) responsible for half of this direct nursing care [10]. Kessler’s group examined the evolving role of NAs in UK hospitals [11]. From a national survey of 700 NAs and 600 trained nurses, the authors upheld the view that NAs act as direct caregivers including through routine tasks traditionally delivered by nurses. They identified that NAs exhibit distinct qualities, which are valued by qualified nurses, including routine task fulfilment and abilities relating to patients, which enable NAs to enhance care quality. Indeed, the national findings of Kessler’s group were generalizable to our own clinical setting where a NA cohort was a well-placed, available, and motivated resource to deliver therapeutically focused care for our hospitalized older population.

The theoretical relationship between care approaches is complex and represents a challenge for service users and policy makers. For instance, comprehensive rehabilitation delivery during an acute care episode may lead to users not seeking custodial care at home. Conversely, day-to-day activities realized by custodial care at home may lead to users not seeking acute rehabilitative care [12]. With stable resources being assigned to more dependent users in higher numbers, reactive care regardless of environment has often been the model of choice.

However, an economic rationale has developed more recently where investment in maintenance and preventative models results in healthcare savings with models including the 4Rs; reablement, reactivation, rehabilitation, and restorative care [13]. In North America, restorative care approaches have resulted in favorable results in nursing home facilities [14] and at home [15], and restorative care education and motivation training for nursing assistants was effective in supporting a change in beliefs and


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