Deconstructing dementia and delirium hospital practice: using cultural historical activity theory to inform education approaches
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Older patients with dementia and delirium receive suboptimal hospital care. Policy calls for more effective education to address this though there is little consensus on what this entails. The purpose of this clarification study is to explore how practice gaps are constructed in relation to managing the confused hospitalised older patient. The intent is to inform educational processes in the work-place beyond traditional approaches such as training. Adopting grounded theory as a research method and working within a social constructionist paradigm we explored the practice gaps of 15 healthcare professionals by interview and conducted five focus groups with patients, carers and Liaison mental health professionals. Data were thematically analysed by constant comparison and theoretical sampling was undertaken until saturation reached. Categories were identified and pragmatic concepts developed grounded within the data. Findings were then further analysed using cultural historical activity theory as a deductive lens. Practice gaps in relation to managing the confused older patient are determined by factors operating at individual (knowledge and skill gaps, personal philosophy, task based practice), team (leadership, time and ward environmental factors) and organisational (power relationships, dominance of medical model, fragmentation of care services) levels. Conceptually, practice appeared to be influenced by socio-cultural ward factors and compounded by a failure to join up existing “patient” knowledge amongst professionals. Applying cultural historical activity theory to further illuminate the findings, the central object is defined as learning about the patient and the mediating artifacts are the care relationships. The overarching medical dominance emerges as an important cultural historical factor at play and staff rules and divisions of labour are exposed. Lastly key contradictions and tensions in the system that work against learning about the patient are identified. Cultural historical activity theory can be used to advance understanding of practice gaps in order to develop a broader transformative approach to dementia and delirium practice and education. Structural changes at an individual, team and systems level resulting from this novel understanding of practice complexity are proposed. Contradictions can be used as foci for expansive learning. Lastly, interprofessional education (formal and informal) is advocated to further knotwork and improve the care of the older confused patient.
Advances in Health Sciences Education
Medicine, Nursing and Health Curriculum and Pedagogy