Expert Nursing Knowledge in the Care of Patients at Risk of Impaired Swallowing

Jeanne M. McHale, Marion A. Phipps, Kathy Horvath, Joseph Schmelz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose: To describe the practical knowledge of expert nurses when they assess and feed patients at risk of impaired swallowing. Observation uncovered a lack of well-developed nursing practices in assessing patients' swallowing and eating, and a wide range of interventions in the care ofdifficult-to-feed-patients. Finding little previous nursing research to guide practice for patients with impaired swallowing, the authors undertook a study to identify and describe the knowledge embedded in the everyday practice of nurses. Design: Descriptive, exploratory using purposive sampling. Twelve nurses were identified in 1994 as expert in the care of patients at risk of impaired swallowing in one Boston, Massachusetts teaching hospital. Methods: Data were collected using written narratives by each participant; group interviews in which nurses discussed the written narratives; nonparticipant observations and individual interviews of the expert nurses; and patients'chart review. Data were analyzed using interpretive phenomenology. Findings: Most nurses in the study did not perform a complete assessment of swallowing before feeding their patients. Yet, through feeding patients, they were able to describe several components of the swallowing assessment used in their practice. Conclusions: The areas of assessment described by the nurses can serve as a template for the development of educational content and assessment tools for swallowing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-142
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Nursing Scholarship
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Expert knowledge
  • Impaired swallowing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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