Nurses play a pivotal role in caring for hospitalised patients with social risk factors and preparing them for discharge. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania School Of Nursing demonstrates how certain health system constraints present barriers to effective care and impact outcomes for patients with high social risks.

“Few studies have explored whether acute care nurses are adequately supported in their practice environments to address the unique needs of socially at risk patients as they transition back into community settings,” said J. Margo Brooks Carthon, associate professor of nursing, a senior fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. “Our findings suggest that prioritization of medical needs during acute care hospitalisation and lack of organizational supports may deter nurses from fully addressing social concerns.”

The research was published online in the Journal of Clinical Nursing. The paper suggests that while the development of new initiatives to address social risk is of value, care must be taken not to increase the burden placed on nurses or the health team.

“Nurses routinely include evaluations of the social risk factors as part of patient assessments; however, tailoring care to meet these additional needs may require changes to nursing workflow and traditional clinical roles,” said Brooks Carthon.

Researchers emphasise the need for hospital-based initiatives that aim to address the needs of socially at risk patients to “incorporate the perspectives of patients and health care providers as collaborators in intervention design.”