Exploring critical care nurses' perceptions of their educational preparedness in managing people living with HIV/AIDS admitted to critical care units in KwaZulu-Natal.
Introduction. The use of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) has shown to reduce the morbidity and mortality and prolongs survival, improving quality of life restoring and preserving immunologic function, maximizing antiretroviral activity and durably suppressing viral load and further preventing vertical HIV transmission. However, their use in Critical Care Units CCU is still controversial as there are still no set standards for how HAART should be applied in these settings (Anderson, 2009). This study was aimed at exploring the perceptions of critical care nurses towards their educational preparedness in managing HIV/AIDS patients admitted to CCU in KwaZulu-Natal. Methodology. Quantitative descriptive research design was used and data collection included a structured questionnaire and open ended questions. Results. The findings of this study indicate that of the critical care nurses who were sampled for this study and had undergone training in HIV/AIDS management, 45% and 25% respectively perceived that they were not educationally prepared to provide services for people living with HIV/AIDS admitted to CCUs. Almost all N=50 (94%) critical care nurses reported that HIV/AIDS management should be incorporated into the critical care nursing programme. Their universal perception N=42 (75%) is that this will improve the standards of nursing care in the critical care field. Over and above lack of training and updated information reported by the respondents, they are still challenged by factors such as advanced level of HIV disease, confidentiality about the disease, knowledge about a HIV/AIDS treatment regimen and emotional challenges. However, there are guiding policies within critical care settings for nurses to utilise in the management of HIV/AIDS and in the care of people who have already been infected. Conclusion and recommendations. In conclusion, more research with a larger scale sample is required to provide appropriate generalisation of the findings of the study. Alternatively a qualitative research study which may provide richer data on the lived experiences of the critical care nurses regarding care of people living with HIV/AIDS is suggested.