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Nursing home hospital transfers in the terminally ill: night shift nurses matter!


Background French demographic projection expects an increasing number of older, dependent patients in the next few years. A large proportion of this population lives in nursing homes and their transfer to hospitals at the end of life is an ongoing issue.

Objective This study explored the factors influencing the transfer of patients living in nursing homes to hospital at the end of life.

Design We used a mixed-methods questionnaire developed by an expert group and assessing different characteristics of the nursing homes.

Participants All the nursing homes in the Rhône-Alpes area (n=680) were surveyed.

Results We obtained 466 (68%) answers. We found that a palliative care programme was present in 336 (72%) nursing homes. The majority had a coordinating physician 428 (82%) and a mean number of 6 nurses for 83 beds, with 83 (18%) having a night shift nurse. There was a mean number of 19 deaths per nursing home during the recorded year. The main cause of death was dementia (41%), cancer-related death (13%). Death occurred mostly in the nursing home (14 74%). Night shift nurse attendance was significantly associated with the place of death: 27 deaths occurred in nursing homes with a night shift nurse versus 12 in those without one (p<0001).

Conclusions The location of the death of frail elderly patients is a major health issue that needs to be addressed. Our results suggests that the presence of a night shift nurse decreases the number of emergency transfers and deaths in the hospital.

  • Hospice care
  • Nursing Home care
  • End of life care

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