A survey of oral care practices in South African intensive care units

Helen Perrie, Juan Scribante, Sonja Windsor


Background. Recent research has highlighted the importance of oral care in the prevention of ventilator-associated pneumonia. Although oral care is a fundamental aspect of nursing care, it is often given lower priority than other nursing interventions in intensive care units (ICUs).

Objectives. The aim of this study was to describe current oral care interventions for ventilated patients in South African ICUs. The objectives of the study were to determine the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs and training of ICU nurses who render oral care; the type and frequency of oral care delivered to ventilated patients; hospital support and supplies available; and the availability of oral care protocols in the ICU.

Methods. A quantitative, prospective, cross-sectional research design was used.
Approval to conduct the study was obtained from the Human Research Ethics Committee, University of the Witwatersrand. The study population consisted of nurses working in ICUs who provide oral care to ventilated patients.

Results. Almost all the nurses perceived oral care to be a high priority. Nurses were generally aware of the most likely mechanism of acquiring pneumonia. The type and frequency of oral care varied widely. Most nurses stated that they had adequate time and supplies to provide oral care. The majority of nurses had had some formal training in oral care, but would appreciate an opportunity to improve their knowledge and skills.

Conclusions. There are a variety of oral care practices for ventilated patients. The introduction of evidence-based oral care guidelines into units that do not at present have these guidelines may further enhance best practice and ensure that patient outcomes are not compromised unnecessarily.

Authors' affiliations

Helen Perrie,

Juan Scribante,

Sonja Windsor,

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Cite this article

Southern African Journal of Critical Care 2011;27(2):42.

Article History

Date submitted: 2011-08-13
Date published: 2011-11-02

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