Background: Nurses are seeing increasing numbers of patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) given that one in thirty-six children receive the diagnosis. Previous studies have found that there is limited amount of education regarding the care of patients with ASD in undergraduate nursing programs. To further this issue, nursing faculty have reported to feel unprepared to teach students about ASD or guide supervised care of these patients.
Purpose: A study was completed to evaluate practicing pediatric nurses’ and nursing faculty’s comfortability in caring for patients with ASD and if they received formal education regarding necessary considerations for ASD in their undergraduate nursing curriculums.
Methods: Pediatric nurses attending an annual competency event and nursing faculty completed a survey. Routine nursing assessment and patient interaction metrics were evaluated along with the nurse’s ability to direct parents to resources. Nurses were given the opportunity to identify barriers to effective care for patients with ASD and suggest institutional changes. Nurses were then provided in-depth education regarding best practices in nursing care of patients with ASD.
Results: Sixty-two surveys were completed. Seventy-nine percent of the nurses did not receive formal education regarding ASD in their nursing curriculums. The nurses felt the most comfortable taking vitals, assessing pain, and administering medications to patients with ASD. The nurses felt the least comfortable understanding and managing a behavioral plan, teaching about ASD, and providing direction for early intervention process. Communication and sensory needs were listed as the largest barriers to care. The nurses suggested that the institution provide more ASD education, sensory carts on floors, and access to sensory rooms.
Conclusions: Most nurses did not identify as having specific education regarding care of individuals with ASD during their undergraduate nursing education. In addition, many nurses felt uncomfortable with certain patient interactions.
Implications: With the increasing number of children and adults with ASD and the documented lack of ASD education in undergraduate nursing curriculums which affects comfortability in caring for patients, there is an opportunity for us to enhance education for our nursing faculty and students. The limited evidence that exists in the literature to bridge this gap in ASD knowledge will be discussed as well as plans for future improvement.
Audience Take Away Notes:
- After this presentation participants will be more knowledgeable about the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder and important barriers these patients have to health care.
- Participants will review existing evidence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) content in nursing curriculums and nursing faculty’s ability to integrate this knowledge into didactic or practicum application.
- Participants will explore ways in which to enhance general ASD understanding for all practicing nurses.