Recording and interpretation of vital signs in a private hospital in KwaZulu-Natal
Within a healthcare context, the traditional role of the nurse involves monitoring vital signs as an essential indicator of physiological deterioration. Enrolled nurses and enrolled nursing auxiliaries are primarily responsible for the measurement of vital signs and play an important role in early recognition of and response to signs of deterioration. This research explored and described the current theoretical knowledge of the enrolled nurses and enrolled nursing auxiliaries working at a private hospital in KwaZulu-Natal. The researcher further investigated the accuracy of recording and the ability of enrolled nurses and enrolled nursing auxiliaries to correctly interpret the data presented to them during the assessment of vital signs. If nurses are not accurate and effective while recording or interpreting vital signs, it may put patients at risk as appropriate actions are delayed. The researcher used a quantitative, descriptive research design. All potential respondents meeting the inclusion criteria, were invited to participate in the research study due to the relatively small sample size (N=89). Once ethical clearance had been obtained from the Health Research Ethics Committee of the North-West University, the questionnaire was pre-tested on nurses meeting the inclusion criteria. This was done to identify confusing, ambiguous or difficult questions. Measures were implemented to assure the validity and reliability of the study. The respondents selected for the study were enrolled nurses and enrolled nursing auxiliaries employed on a permanent or part-time basis at a research hospital. A mediator explained all aspects related to the study to potential respondents. Informed consent was obtained from all respondents. Data were collected by making use of a questionnaire where questions were selected and formulated by the researcher, with the information in mind contained in the hospital procedural guidelines, related to the assessment and measurement of vital signs. The results obtained from the completed questionnaires showed 68.8% of the respondents were enrolled nursing auxiliaries, 54.7% were aged between 26-35 years, 53.1% had 1-5 years nursing experience and 85.9% were employed on a permanent basis. The researcher was able to identify gaps in the knowledge of respondents from both categories specifically related to definitions and normal values of each vital sign forming part of the study, as well as the use of equipment and measurement techniques associated with the effective measurement of vital signs. Areas, requiring attention and remedial interventions, concern the documentation of vital signs by enrolled nurses and enrolled nursing auxiliaries who participated in the study. The issues identified were that documents are not adequately identified, and especially respiratory rate and oxygen saturation are not correctly documented. Approximately 50% of the enrolled nurses and enrolled nursing auxiliaries were able to clearly identify and indicate actions and interventions related to abnormalities presented as part of the scenario. By not correctly identifying abnormalities, patients’ lives might potentially be at risk. The recommendations include the introduction of a quality improvement programme specifically targeting the knowledge of enrolled nurses and enrolled nursing auxiliaries together with training on the correct recording techniques that can improve the ability of enrolled nurses and enrolled nursing auxiliaries to timeously recognise and respond to physiological signs of patient deterioration.
- Health Sciences