Education of healthcare professionals for preventing pressure ulcers

A Porter-Armstrong, Zena EH Moore, Ian Bradbury, S McDonough

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Background: Pressure ulcers, also known as bed sores or pressure sores, are localised areas of tissue damage arising due to excess pressure and shearing forces. Education of healthcare staff has been recognised as an integral component of pressure ulcer prevention. These educational programmes are directed towards influencing behaviour change on the part of the healthcare professional, to encourage preventative practices with the aim of reducing the incidence of pressure ulcer development. Objectives: To assess the effects of educational interventions for healthcare professionals on pressure ulcer prevention. Search methods: In June 2017 we searched the Cochrane Wounds Specialised Register; the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL); Ovid MEDLINE (including In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations); Ovid Embase and EBSCO CINAHL Plus. We also searched clinical trials registries for ongoing and unpublished studies, and scanned reference lists of relevant included studies as well as reviews, meta-analyses and health technology reports to identify additional studies. There were no restrictions with respect to language, date of publication or study setting. Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and cluster-RCTs, that evaluated the effect of any educational intervention delivered to healthcare staff in any setting to prevent pressure ulceration. Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently assessed titles and abstracts of the studies identified by the search strategy for eligibility. We obtained full versions of potentially relevant studies and two authors independently screened these against the inclusion criteria. Main results: We identified five studies that met the inclusion criteria for this review: four RCTs and one cluster-RCT. The study characteristics differed in terms of healthcare settings, the nature of the interventions studied and outcome measures reported. The cluster-RCT, and two of the RCTs, explored the effectiveness of education delivered to healthcare staff within residential or nursing home settings, or nursing home and hospital wards, compared to no intervention, or usual practices. Educational intervention in one of these studies was embedded within a broader, quality improvement bundle. The other two individually randomised controlled trials explored the effectiveness of educational intervention, delivered in two formats, to nursing staff cohorts.Due to the heterogeneity of the studies identified, pooling was not appropriate and we have presented a narrative overview. We explored a number of comparisons (1) education versus no education (2) components of educational intervention in a number of combinations and (3) education delivered in different formats. There were three primary outcomes: change in healthcare professionals' knowledge, change in healthcare professionals' clinical behaviour and incidence of new pressure ulcers.We are uncertain whether there is a difference in health professionals' knowledge depending on whether they receive education or no education on pressure ulcer prevention (hospital group: mean difference (MD) 0.30, 95% confidence interval (CI) -1.00 to 1.60; 10 participants; nursing home group: MD 0.30, 95% CI -0.77 to 1.37; 10 participants). This was based on very low-certainty evidence from one study, which we downgraded for serious study limitations, indirectness and imprecision.We are uncertain whether there is a difference in pressure ulcer incidence with the following comparisons: training, monitoring and observation, versus monitoring and observation (risk ratio (RR) 0.63, 95% CI 0.37 to 1.05; 345 participants); training, monitoring and observation, versus observation alone (RR 1.21, 95% CI 0.60 to 2.43; 325 participants) or, monitoring and observation versus observation alone (RR 1.93, 95% CI 0.96 to 3.88; 232 participants). This was based on very low-certainty evidence from one study, which we downgraded for very serious study limitations and imprecision. We are uncertain whether multilevel intervention versus attention control makes any difference to pressure ulcer incidence. The report presented insufficient data to enable further interrogation of this outcome.We are uncertain whether education delivered in different formats such as didactic education versus video-based education (MD 4.60, 95% CI 3.08 to 6.12; 102 participants) or e-learning versus classroom education (RR 0.92, 95% CI 0.80 to 1.07; 18 participants), makes any difference to health professionals' knowledge of pressure ulcer prevention. This was based on very low-certainty evidence from two studies, which we downgraded for serious study limitations and study imprecision.None of the included studies explored our other primary outcome: change in health professionals' clinical behaviour. Only one study explored the secondary outcomes of interest, namely, pressure ulcer severity and patient and carer reported outcomes (self-assessed quality of life and functional dependency level respectively). However, this study provided insufficient information to enable our independent assessment of these outcomes within the review. Authors' conclusions: We are uncertain whether educating healthcare professionals about pressure ulcer prevention makes any difference to pressure ulcer incidence, or to nurses' knowledge of pressure ulcer prevention. This is because the included studies provided very low-certainty evidence. Therefore, further information is required to clarify the impact of education of healthcare professionals on the prevention of pressure ulcers.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD011620
Pages (from-to)1-47
Number of pages47
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 25 May 2018


  • pressure ulcers
  • Prevention of pressure ulcers
  • Healthcare education
  • pressure sores
  • decubitis ulcers
  • pressure injuries
  • randomized controlled trials as topic
  • incidence
  • Health Personnel
  • humans


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