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New study aims to make personalized care a standard

Toronto, July 28, 2014

By Patricia Favre

Joanna Sim, Laura Shapiro and a patient
Joanna Sim (left), a registered nurse, and Laura Shapiro (right), an occupational therapist, practice hand exercises with a patient. Shapiro and Sim work on one of the units that is collecting patient data for the study. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

With an aging population on the rise, hospitals are seeing more seniors living with mental health problems, cognitive impairments due to dementia, or other conditions that may be associated with responsive or challenging behaviours.

A new interprofessional working group at St. Michael’s Hospital is studying the profiles of all patients, including seniors, receiving constant care with the intent to continuously improve care.

“Patients under constant care are monitored around the clock and generally exhibit responsive behaviours, meaning they are likely to wander, resist care or act in a manner that could be seen as disruptive,” said Terri Irwin, one of the nurse professionals leading the study. “These behaviours are known as responsive because they’re usually due to something negative or frustrating in the patient’s environment that can be addressed and changed.”

The working group is made up of a number of health professionals including nurses, physicians and occupational therapists.

The group will work with three units in the hospital to collect patient data in the hopes of better understanding the characteristics of patients with responsive behaviours. The group will also consult with other health professionals and clinical assistants to learn about their experiences.

Lori Whelan and Terri Irwin consult with a nurse
Lori Whelan (left) and Terri Irwin (right), leaders of the study, consult with a nurse on one of the units participating in the study. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)
“Once we’ve completed the study, we hope to equip our health teams with a better understanding of what can cause this behaviour as well as standardized assessment tools and care plans,” explained Lori Whelan, an occupational therapist leading the study with Irwin. “All behaviour has meaning behind it. If we can better understand what triggers patient behaviours then we can adjust the way we provide care to meet the unique needs of each patient.”

Irwin and Whelan explained that by standardizing the hospital’s approach to caring for these patients through care plans, more information would be shared among the patient’s health team.

“Every patient is different and it’s important for the entire team to be on the same page about patient experiences and triggers,” explained Irwin. “For example, if the patient happens to be a retired concert pianist, it’s likely that music would be included in the care plan as it could help to put the patient at ease.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.