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Assessment of hospice nurses' technique in the use of inhalers and nebulizers

Scarpaci LT, Tsoukleris MG, McPherson ML, J Palliat Med. 2007 Jun;10(3):665-76

Dyspnea, a common distressing end-of-life symptom, is treated with oral (i.e., opioids and anxiolytics) and inhaled medications (anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator agents). Health care providers and patients have demonstrated an inability to use inhaler devices correctly, which can lead to suboptimal drug delivery and poor symptom relief. Hospice nurses are the primary health care providers educating patients, making it critical that they convey accurate device technique. This study assessed hospice nurses' ability to demonstrate proper inhaler device technique and their knowledge of agents used to treat dyspnea. Forty-seven nurses participated. Participants completed a written questionnaire, which gathered demographic data, as well as information regarding previous training with an inhaler device, administration, pharmacokinetics, mechanism of action, patient assessment, and nursing technique. Additionally, each nurse demonstrated the use of a metered dose inhaler, spacer, dry powder inhaler, and a nebulizer, while being observed by a pharmacist trained in the use of inhalers. A standardized evaluation form was used to ensure consistency between evaluators and subjects. Percentage of steps completed correctly by the study participants ranged from 34.9% with the dry powder inhaler to 67.6% with the metered dose inhaler. Years of experience, presence of hospice certification, personal use of inhaler, and nursing comfort level significantly impacted ability to use inhalation devices. This study demonstrated the existence of knowledge gaps regarding patient assessment, pharmacology and pharmacokinetics of inhaled medications, and inhalation device technique among hospice nurses. Formal education of hospice practitioners regarding inhaled medications and inhalation delivery devices is needed.

Scarpaci LT, Tsoukleris MG, McPherson ML,
excelleRx, Inc., An Omnicare Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

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