Fecal incontinence has a high prevalence in the nursing home population which cannot be explained by co-morbidity or anatomic and physiological changes of aging alone. Our hypothesis is that fecal incontinence can be prevented, cured, or ameliorated by offering care staff knowledge of best practice. However, it is not clear which educational model is most effective. To assess the effect of two educational programs for care staff, we planned a three armed cluster-randomized controlled trial. There is a lack of research reporting effects of interventions targeting improved continence care processes in older patients. Thus, to improve the quality of the planned trial, we decided to carry out a pilot study to investigate the feasibility of the planned design, the interventions (educational programs) and the outcome measures, and to enable a power calculation. This paper reports the results from the pilot study.
Three nursing homes, representing each arm of the planned trial, were recruited. Criteria for assessing success of feasibility were pre-specified. Methods, outcome measures, acceptability, and adherence of the components of the intervention were evaluated by descriptive statistical analyses and qualitative content analysis of one focus group interview (n = 7) and four individual interviews.
The main study is feasible with one major and some minor modifications. Due to challenges with recruitment and indications supporting the assumption that a single intervention with one workshop is not sufficient as an implementation strategy, the main study will be reduced to two arms: a multifaceted education intervention and control. The components of the multifaceted intervention seemed to work well together and need only minor modification. Important barriers to consider were sub-optimal use of skill-mix, problems of communicating important assessments and care plans, and isolated nurses with an indistinct nurse identity.
Overall, the main study is feasible. The pedagogical approach needs to consider the identified barriers. Thus, it is essential to empower nurses in their professional role, to facilitate clinical reasoning and critical thinking among care staff, and to facilitate processes to enable care staff to find, report, and utilize information in the electronic patient record.