Date of Award

Spring 2020

Project Type

Clinical Doctorate

College or School




Program or Major

Doctorate of Nursing Practice

Degree Name


First Advisor

Donna Pelletier



Background: Incidence of autism spectrum disorder is increasing. Current prevalence rate is 1 in 59 people, which translates to roughly 1% of the U.S. population. These adults have higher rates of epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, cardiac dysfunction, and mental health disorders. Healthcare system utilization is resultantly greater than their neurotypical counterparts, coupled with longer lengths of stay and decreased patient satisfaction reports.

Purpose: Most nurses report little to no formal training about the disorder or how to develop interventions sensitive to the needs of this population yet are crucial care givers to ensure patient-centeredness. A guideline to acute care for adults on the autism spectrum will be created to assist nurses and develop competency.

Methods: The Academic-Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE) has developed a toolkit to assist primary care providers. Using AASPIRE as the basis, an acute care guideline will be developed and tested in a large academic medical center, piloted on 2 units. The guideline will be merged into the online nursing clinical practice manual. Nursing staff (registered nurses and nursing assistants) will have an educational intervention. A pre-test based upon the Autism Knowledge Survey will be administered to ascertain baseline knowledge of ASD and comfort in caring for these patients. A post-test will be sent 1 month after the intervention to see if knowledge and comfort level has improved.

Results: Overall, the post survey results were improved from the pre-survey. The staff demonstrated increased knowledge of ASD and a significant increase in their comfort level in caring for these patients.

Conclusions and Implications: Knowing how to care for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder is critical as the prevalence continues to increase. By adapting care to the special needs of this population, it is hoped that they will report improved patient experiences and perhaps decrease overall lengths of stay in the acute care setting

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Other Nursing Commons