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The impact of pressure ulcer risk assessment on patient outcomes among hospitalised patients.

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To determine whether use of a risk assessment scale reduces nosocomial pressure ulcers.

BACKGROUND: There is contradictory evidence concerning the validity of risk assessment scales. The interaction of education, clinical judgement and use of risk assessment scales has not been fully explored. It is not known which of these is most important, nor whether combining them results in better patient care.

DESIGN: Pretest-posttest comparison.

METHODS: A risk assessment scale namely the Braden was implemented in a group of wards after appropriate education and training of staff in addition to mandatory wound care study days. Another group of staff received the same education programme but did not implement the risk assessment scale and a third group carried on with mandatory study days only.

RESULTS: Nosocomial Pressure Ulcer was reduced in all three groups, but the group that implemented the risk assessment scale showed no significant additional improvement. Allowing for age, gender, medical speciality, level of risk and other factors did not explain this lack of improvement. Clinical judgement seemed to be used by nurses to identify patients at high risk to implement appropriate risk reduction strategies such as use of pressure relieving beds. Clinical judgement was not significantly different from the risk assessment scale score in terms of risk evaluation.

CONCLUSIONS: It is questioned whether the routine use of a risk assessment scale is useful in reducing nosocomial pressure ulcer. It is suggested clinical judgement is as effective as a risk assessment scale in terms of assessing risk (though neither show good sensitivity and specificity) and determining appropriate care.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Clinical judgement may be as effective as employing a risk assessment scale to assess the risk of pressure ulcers. If this were true it would be simpler and release nursing time for other tasks.

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