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Nursing Education to Improve Hospital Care for Parkinson’s

A new educational program for nurses prepares them to improve hospital care for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). The program, developed by and with nurses and tools affiliated with the Parkinson’s Foundation, is described in the online March 3 edition of the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.

People with PD visit the hospital for a host of reasons, such as a disease-related fall or a urinary tract infection or for reasons unrelated to PD, such as heart problems or back surgery. Unfortunately, many people with Parkinson’s find that during hospital stays, their symptoms worsen. Not only that, they tend to be hospitalized more often than their peers without PD, and hospital stay is often longer.

One reason is that hospital staff may have little experience with PD. Staff may be unaware of the complexities of Parkinson’s and its symptoms. For example, it’s essential for people with PD to get their medications on time at the hospital. But studies have shown that, during a hospital stay, people with PD often receive their medications late, or even skip doses, and may be given other medications for pain, nausea, depression A mood disorder whose symptoms can include a persistent sad or empty mood, feelings of hopelessness or pessimism, irritability and loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable activities. or psychosis A broad medical term used to describe a loss of contact with reality that involves hallucinations and/or delusions. that interfere with PD medications.

Mary C. DiBartolo, Ph.D., R.N.-B.C., C.N.E., of Salisbury University in Maryland, a Scholar of the Edmond J. Safra Visiting Nurse Faculty Program at the Parkinson's Foundation, developed a formal PD training session targeted for hospital nurses. She presented the program to 150 nurses from four hospitals in rural and underserved areas of Maryland.


The program included the following:

  • A pre-test to assess their prior knowledge of PD.
  • A two-hour presentation on the causes of PD, motor and nonmotor symptoms, and therapies for PD that emphasized the critical importance of timing in administering PD medications, as well as side effects, interactions with food and individual differences in responses to medications, such as dyskinesias and wearing-off.
  • Two concise educational handouts for reference.
  • Discussion of a case study and the Aware in Care kit, available from the NPF division of the Parkinson’s Foundation.

What Does It Mean?

In hospitals, nurses are the linchpins in managing treatment, both for a person’s primary reason for admission and for PD. A lack of understanding of Parkinson’s can lead to serious consequences. By contrast, increased preparation of nurses can lead to significant improvement in well-being of people living with Parkinson’s.

By raising awareness of Parkinsons among hospital nurses, this program aims ultimately to reduce hospital-related complications for people with PD, making stays in the hospital shorter and safer.

People with PD and their care partners also have a role to play in helping to ensure a smooth hospital stay. At a minimum, people should be sure to bring an up-to-date list of medications, doses and timing, as well as contact information for your neurologist.


DiBartolo MC. (2017). Enhancing Care for Hospitalized Patients With Parkinson’s Disease: Development of a Formal Educational Program for Nursing Staff. Journal of Gerontological Nursing doi:10.3928/00989134-20170223-02

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
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