Oral Presentation Palliative Care Nurses Australia Conference 2020

Delirium treatment practice, practice change and influencing factors: an online survey of interdisciplinary clinicians working in palliative care and other specialties (70413)

Annmarie Hosie 1 , Meera R Agar 2 , Linda Brown 2 , Gideon A Caplan 3 4 , Brian Draper 3 4 , Stephen Hedger 5 , Debra Rowett 6 , Penelope Tuffin 7 , SEONG L CHEAH 2 , Jane L Phillips 2 , Manraaj Sidhu 2 , David Currow 2
  1. University of Notre Dame Australia & St Vincent's Health Network Sydney, Darlinghurst, NSW, Australia
  2. IMPACCT, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, NSW, Australia
  3. Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, NSW, Australia
  4. University of NSW, Kensington, NSW, Australia
  5. Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia
  6. University of South Australia, Adelaide, NSW, Australia
  7. Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, WA, Australia


Recent high-level studies and the Delirium Clinical Care Standard signal the need to reverse the routine use of antipsychotics and other unregistered medications for delirium.


1. To investigate clinicians’ (doctor, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, pharmacist) self-reported practice and practice change since 2016 in delirium treatment in palliative care and other specialties, focused on antipsychotic use;

2. Identify factors influencing delirium treatment practice according to the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF).


Online survey with 22 items: nine demographic; a question about frequency of encountering new patients with delirium; ten on current practice; and ten on practice change and influencers. Current practice items included goals of antipsychotic use for delirium. Practice influencer items included prompts about key negative studies of antipsychotics for delirium. Open-ended items enabled unprompted responses about other influencers and practice change characteristics. Recruitment via 15 professional organisations was in April-July 2019. Practice influencers were categorised using the TDF. Descriptive statistics were used to summarise results.


There were 475 valid responses from 342 registered nurses, 79 doctors, 29 nurse practitioners and 25 pharmacists, representing all Australian states and territories. Most common workplaces were hospitals and residential aged care; 61% respondents encountered new patients with delirium at least daily or weekly; and 30% worked in palliative care. Just over half (59%) reported practice change in delirium treatment in the preceding three years, most often increased non-pharmacological intervention (53%) and decreased medication use (35%). Compared to respondents from other specialties, a greater proportion of palliative care respondents were aware of the named negative studies (75% vs 38%), yet more reported using antipsychotics (79% vs 44%) and other unregistered medications to treat delirium in the preceding 12 months, and for higher proportions of delirious patients. Most common goals of antipsychotic use were to decrease patient distress and restrain behaviours. Common influencers on palliative care respondents’ practice were emotion, knowledge, beliefs about consequences, and social and environmental factors.


Theory- and evidence-based practice change initiatives are required to support palliative care and other clinicians to de-implement their frequent use of antipsychotics and other unregistered medications for delirious patients.