Aim: To explore patients and healthcare professionals’ experiences of oral care during hospitalization. The gained knowledge led to identify challenges related to oral care in nursing practice
Background: Daily oral care is important to patients’ health and well-being. Insufficient oral care causes diseases in the oral cavity, systemic infections and increased morbidity, which subsequently can lead to prolonged hospitalization and increased mortality. Despite this knowledge, oral care is not an essential part of nursing practice. Studies do not clearly identify the reasons for challenges regarding oral care, but indicate that focused interventions have potential to improve oral care in nursing practice.
Design: A qualitative study exploring the participants’ experiences to gain new in-depth knowledge of oral care among hospitalized patients.
Methods: A phenomenological-hermeneutic approach was applied. Data collection was conducted on five hospital wards using participant observation combined with semi-structured individual interviews including 16 patients and 15 healthcare professionals.
Results: Four themes describing challenges regarding oral care emerged; Oral care based on a gut feeling, oral care fades away, even self-reliant patients need help with oral care and the mouth reflects the life lived, and this challenges the healthcare professionals.
Conclusion: Lack of professional knowledge was common to the four themes describing challenges regarding oral in nursing practice. The study identified a need to improve a professional approach to increase focus on oral care. Solutions to accommodate this need were developed in a co-design process with patients and healthcare professionals to bring back oral care in nursing practice.