New research into understanding nursing practice in stroke rehabilitation

Published: Friday 21 November 2014

Nurses are the largest group of health professionals working with stroke survivors. However, there is little evidence describing their specific role in stroke rehabilitation.

Dr David Clarke is a lecturer in Stroke Care at the University of Leeds, and he has published a new research paper in the journal, Disability and Rehabilitation.  It reports on some of the work he undertook as part of his Postdoctoral Fellowship with the Stroke Association.

The study explored the perceived role of nurses in stroke rehabilitation when acting as part of a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) on hospital stroke units. 

MDT professionals include:

  • Registered nurses (RNs)
  • Healthcare Assistants (HCAs)
  • Occupational Therapists (OTs)
  • Speech and Language Therapists (SALTs)
  • Physiotherapists (PTs)
  • Physicians (medical doctors)

The perceptions investigated were of a range of MDT members, including nurses themselves. The goals of the study were to establish nurses' and other MDT members' views on nursing practice in stroke rehabilitation, how this practice was described and understood by MDT members, and then to compare and contrast the views shared. This could provide a better idea of what might be done to maximise the amount of stroke rehabilitation nurses are able to incorporate into their roles.

The researchers used an approach called 'Q methodology' which involved recruiting 63 MDT professionals to take part in a 'sorting' activity. They were asked to sort a range of descriptions about nurses roles in stroke rehabilitation, which had been collected from the previous study. The sorting was by order of which descriptions they agreed or disagreed with, and the level to which they felt so.

After their participation, all of the results were combined and underwent a different type of sorting by the researchers. They used mathematics (statistics) to help group the comments by theme and how strongly views were shared among participants.

At a later date, the researchers went on to interview 27 of the participants to get a better idea of why they had made the decisions they had when sorting the descriptions about nurses roles in stroke rehabilitation.

An important finding of the study was that irrespective of an MDT members professional background, they shared the view that nurses can make an active contribution to stroke rehabilitation and can integrate rehabilitation principles into their routine practice.

The researchers concluded that the contribution that nurses with stroke rehabilitation skills can make to effective stroke care was understood by MDT members. However, realising the potential of nurses as full partners in stroke rehabilitation is unlikely to occur without the introduction of structured competency-based multidisciplinary training in rehabilitation skills.

Dr Clarke is a lecturer in Stroke Care at the University of Leeds. Find out more about his wider work.  

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