Managing patient deterioration: evaluation of what works.

Jennifer McGaughey, Peter O'Halloran, Samuel Porter, Bronagh Blackwood

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Background: Rapid Response Systems (RRS) have been implemented nationally and internationally to improve patient safety in hospital. However, to date the majority of the RRS research evidence has focused on measuring the effectiveness of the intervention on patient outcomes. To evaluate RRS it has been recommended that a multimodal approach is required to address the broad range of process and outcome measures required to determine the effectiveness of the RRS concept. Aim: The aim of this paper is to evaluate the official RRS programme theoretical assumptions regarding how the programme is meant to work against actual practice in order to determine what works. Methods: The research design was a multiple case study approach of four wards in two hospitals in Northern Ireland. It followed the principles of realist evaluation research which allowed empirical data to be gathered to test and refine RRS programme theory [1]. This approach used a variety of mixed methods to test the programme theories including individual and focus group interviews with a purposive sample of 75 nurses and doctors, observation of ward practices and documentary analysis. The findings from the case studies were analysed and compared within and across cases to identify what works for whom and in what circumstances. Results: The RRS programme theories were critically evaluated and compared with study findings to develop a mid-range theory to explain what works, for whom in what circumstances. The findings of what works suggests that clinical experience, established working relationships, flexible implementation of protocols, ongoing experiential learning, empowerment and pre-emptive management are key to the success of RRS implementation.  Conclusion:These findings highlight the combination of factors that can improve the implementation of RRS and in light of this evidence several recommendations are made to provide policymakers with guidance and direction for their success and sustainability.References: 1.Pawson R and Tilley N. (1997) Realistic Evaluation. Sage Publications; LondonType of submission: Concurrent session Source of funding: Sandra Ryan Fellowship funded by the School of Nursing & Midwifery, Queen’s University of Belfast
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 03 Apr 2014
EventRCN International Nursing Research conference 2014 - University of Glasgow. , Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 02 Apr 201204 Apr 2012


ConferenceRCN International Nursing Research conference 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • critical care
  • Realist evaluation
  • patient deterioration


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