The experience of people with dementia and nurses in hospital: An integrative review

Robin Digby, Susan Lee, Allison Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Aims and objectives: To identify and examine existing research exploring how people with dementia and nurses view acute hospital care. Background: Admission to hospital can be traumatic for a person with dementia due to an inability to cope with unfamiliar environments, faces and routines. Adverse behavioural and health outcomes can result. Dementia adds complexity to patient care. Inability to deliver appropriate care is a source of stress and frustration for nurses. Methods: Integrative review of the literature 2005-2015 reporting the experience of people with dementia and nurses caring for them in an acute hospital setting (n = 24). Results: Hospitals focus on acute medical care; consequently people with dementia are considered low priority and a disruption to normal routine. Risk management often takes priority over patient dignity. People with dementia are stigmatised. Families have significant roles to play in the care of a person with dementia in hospital but are often excluded. Nurses struggle to complete even basic patient care, and focus on tasks often at the expense of specific patient needs. Support for nurses is lacking. The job satisfaction of nurses caring for people with dementia is poor. Conclusions: Nurses require improved education and support to care for patients with dementia. Hospitals must focus on genuine caring concurrently with rapid discharge requirements, risk mitigation and fiscal restraint. More research is needed to inform the development of appropriate care for people with dementia in hospitals. Relevance to clinical practice: Nurses must understand the complex needs of people with dementia in hospital. Nurse education about dementia, practical support, strong clinical leadership and role-modelling is needed. Empathy for patients regardless of diagnosis must remain a core attribute of nurses. Current hospital culture requires wider system review to mitigate against stigmatisation of patients with dementia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1152-1171
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • Care experience
  • Dementia
  • Hospitals
  • Integrative literature review
  • Nurses

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