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Delirium Part 1: Prevalence, Pathology, Risk Factors, and Prevention

presented by Kathleen Fletcher & Heather Teller

Accreditation Check:

Delirium is an acute state of confusion characterized by its sudden onset, fluctuating course, impaired attention, and disorganized thinking. It can be the first sign of acute illness. This first course in a series of three gives nurses in all settings an understanding of the prevalence and pathology of delirium. Specific risk factors will be discussed with an emphasis on preventable strategies.

Meet Your Instructors

  • Kathleen Fletcher, RN, DNP, GNP-BC, FAAN

    Kathleen Fletcher is currently working as a PRN staff nurse at the Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health and as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. She maintains a hands-on role, working as a clinician, educator, and researcher in gerontology for more than 35 years. She has demonstrated a sustained commitment to improving the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the geriatric workforce. She has published extensively and exclusively in geriatrics. Kathleen demonstrates a passion for geriatric education and is much in demand as a speaker nationally at the state and local level. She is renowned for her expertise in delirium, dementia, and depression. She is plenary faculty for a HRSA Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) grant and has presented annually to interprofessional faculty scholars on delirium, comprehensive geriatric assessment, geriatric syndromes, and family caregivers. She is lead faculty in the GWEP Train the Trainer program. She received the David Butler Spirit of Caring award, the highest award by the Geriatric Advanced Practice Nurse Association, in 2017 and received the highest award given by the Virginia Nurses Association, the Nancy Vance Award for Clinical Excellence, in 2001. She was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 2002.

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  • Heather Teller, BSN, BA, RN, CMSRN, GRN

    Heather Teller is a Virginia-based nurse educator and acute care facility staff development coordinator. For the past eight years, she has worked on the subject of delirium as part of an interdisciplinary team at Riverside Health System. During that time, she developed the nursing education program to help reduce hospital-acquired delirium and aid in the treatment of those who are at risk of or are experiencing delirium. Ms. Teller received her early training in education, psychology, and history from Virginia Commonwealth University, followed by a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Old Dominion University. She taught various subjects in the Virginia public school setting before pursuing her interests in nursing and health care, where she has worked for more than 10 years. After becoming a licensed RN, becoming a certified medical surgical nurse, and earning her BSN from Old Dominion University, she blended the skills and knowledge obtained as a teacher with her love of nursing and desire to train nursing staff, becoming a nurse educator. She remains dedicated to the mission of increasing knowledge and sharing a love of learning and serving with nursing staff in multiple settings.

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Chapters & Learning Objectives

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  1. Definition and Prevalence of Delirium

    1. Definition and Prevalence of Delirium

    Licensed nurses (RN, LPN) in all settings need to understand how delirium is defined and the various forms of it. Delirium is often mistaken for dementia, and complicating the picture is the fact that they often coexist. Since delirium is often not recognized, appreciating the frequency of it will help nurses recognize its features earlier in the course and take appropriate action.

  2. Pathology of Delirium

    2. Pathology of Delirium

    A greater understanding of the potential pathologies of delirium and the laboratory and imaging studies that may be ordered by the primary care provider will help nurses understand the cause(s) of it and report and respond quickly. This chapter focuses on the pathology of delirium. The purpose of this chapter is to help nurses glean a better understanding of the interacting biological factors that lead to acute cognitive dysfunction.

  3. Risk Factors and Preventive Strategies

    3. Risk Factors and Preventive Strategies

    Evidence-based studies have defined the predisposing and precipitating factors for delirium. This chapter aims to assist nurses to identify risk factors for delirium and the appropriate preventive strategies in order to decrease the occurrence or duration of delirium.