The following article features coverage from the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) 2018 Annual Conference in Austin, Texas. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s conference coverage. 

Routine screening on admission for risk of aspiration can minimize incidence of aspiration pneumonia (AP) in hospitalized patients, a study presented at the NACNS 2018 Annual Conference has shown.

Aspiration pneumonia is one of the most common forms of hospital-acquired pneumonia among adult patients. Various risk factors associated with acute and chronic illness place patients at risk for developing AP. In comparison to similar academic medical centers across the United States, rates of AP at this academic medical center were higher on 3 medical units, and these rates were among the highest in the hospital.

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To address this issue, nursing leadership on the 3 units partnered with an interprofessional team to design an initiative aimed at improving AP rates on their units. The team applied plan-do methodology to an evidence-based tool for assessing a patient’s risk of aspiration. The clinical nurse specialist (CNS) educated unit-based champions and validated the screening tool in practice.

The initiative called for screening all patients on admission for aspiration and documenting the results in the electronic medical record. Based on the results, patients were allowed to maintain a typical diet or were classified as NPO until a formalized speech consult was completed.

At 6 months postintervention, AP rates across the 3 medical units were 40% lower. Based on these results, the CNS and speech language pathologist worked to expand use of the screening tool across the hospital. Aspiration rates at this medical center continue to decrease.


O’Malley M. Reducing Aspiration Pneumonia using Quality Improvement. Oral presentation at: NACNS 2018 Annual Conference; February 28-March 3, 2018; Austin, TX.