Nurses' experiences of caring for patients with intellectual developmental disorders: A systematic review using a meta-ethnographic approach

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Background: Research suggests that registered nurses (RNs) do not feel adequately prepared to support patients with intellectual disability disorder (IDD). This is unsurprising, as few European health sciences curricula include undergraduate and graduate training courses in IDD. As RNs are often in the front line of care, eliciting in-depth knowledge about how they experience nursing this group of patients is vital. Our aim in this study was to develop a conceptual understanding about RNs' experiences of nursing patients with IDD. Method: We undertook a systematic review and meta-ethnography to synthesise qualitative research studies found in PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, ERIC databases and by manual searching to identify additional studies. We condensed translatable second-order constructs, and developed an idiomatic translation. Finally, we formulated line of argument (LOA) syntheses to capture the core of the idiomatic translations. Results: We included eighteen published studies from eight countries involving 190 RNs. The RNs' experience of nursing patients with IDD were reflected in 14 LOAs. Six of these reflected a tentatively more distinctive and at times unique conceptualisation of RNs' experience of nursing this group of patients. The remaining eight LOAs represented a conceptualisation of nursing per se, a conceptualisation of nursing that was interpreted as a universal experience regardless of context and patient group. Conclusion: Lack of awareness and knowledge are likely breeding grounds for the 'otherness' that still surrounds this group of patients. In encounters between patients and RNs, focusing on the person behind the disability label could be one way to secure relevant nursing care for patients with IDD. Undertaking appropriate under- and postgraduate education alongside the implementation of nursing models focusing on patient-centred care would help RNs in reducing the health and care inequalities this group of patients still face.




Appelgren, M., Bahtsevani, C., Persson, K., & Borglin, G. (2018). Nurses’ experiences of caring for patients with intellectual developmental disorders: A systematic review using a meta-ethnographic approach. BMC Nursing, 17(1).

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