Are you looking after a patient who has epilepsy? Caring for people with this condition can be challenging. There are many different epilepsy syndromes and a wide variety of seizure types and symptoms. Depending on the person's age, the severity of their seizures and their current treatment regimen, specific nursing interventions for seizures will vary substantially.
If you have any doubts at all, always ask someone who’s trained in seizure care. But there are certain nursing interventions for seizures that all nurses can follow. Let’s learn more.
What is an epileptic seizure?
An epileptic seizure is an unprovoked discharge of electrical activity in the brain. Depending on where in the person’s brain the seizure began, it can make them have very different symptoms.
There are two main types of epileptic seizure:
- Generalized seizures: In a generalized seizure, the electrical discharge happens all around the person's brain and they are always unconscious while it happens.
- Focal seizures: In a focal seizure, the electrical discharge only happens in one part of the brain. Depending on where it happens, the person may lose consciousness, or they may remain (partially) aware.
Emergency nursing interventions for seizures
The goal of all nursing interventions for seizures is for the patient to achieve seizure freedom without experiencing negative side effects.
If you are currently caring for a patient who has epilepsy, here are some key nursing interventions for seizures:
Stay, safe, side
Basic first aid for treating anyone who's having an epileptic seizure is to follow the stay, safe, side protocol. You should:
- Stay by the person's side until they recover. Call for help if needed. Check your watch and time the seizure.
- Make sure they are safe. This depends on the seizure type. Some people have ambulatory (walking) seizures, so you should stay with them and guide them away from dangerous situations, such as road traffic. Other people have tonic clonic seizures, where they fall to the floor and have convulsions. Putting something soft under their head can prevent injury.
- Where appropriate, move the person gently onto their side so they are in the recovery position. Do not put anything in their mouth.
First aid: Full guide to seizure first aid
Be proactive to prevent trauma
There are many proactive nursing interventions for seizures that you can take to help prevent trauma. For example, if the patient is in a hospital bed, apply safety padding to the bars around the side to stop them hitting their limbs if they have convulsive seizures.
Keep their airway clear
If your patient is on the floor or in bed, gently turn them on their side to help with breathing. Make sure that their airway is clear and move anything that could restrict breathing (such as bedding or tubes) out of the way. Sometimes, it’s helpful to use an oxygen mask to prevent hypoxia.
Using emergency medication
There are several kinds of rescue medication that can be used to bring severe seizures under control. Most seizures last between 30 seconds and two minutes. If the person is having longer seizures, or cluster seizures, you may need to provide rescue medicines. These can be given intravenously, orally, nasally, or as rectal suppositories.
Nursing care plan for seizures
Besides emergency seizure care, there are several other things you can do to support your patients with epilepsy.
- Monitor adherence: Many people with epilepsy will be following a seizure care plan which involves them taking anti-seizure medication. However, patients sometimes struggle to adhere to their medication due to unpleasant side effects or forgetfulness.
Communicate regularly with your patients to understand how they are getting on with their medication. If they are having problems adhering to the plan, raise this with their doctor.
- Seizure diary: As part of a seizure care plan, it can be really helpful for patients to keep a seizure diary where they record when they've had seizures, possible triggers, and to give them medication reminders. Epsy is an easy to use mobile app where users can get medication reminders, record seizures and send the information to their doctor.
- Education: Providing patients with age-appropriate education about their epilepsy can be very helpful. Our blog is a hub of accessible information about seizures, treatments, and general lifestyle information. The Epilepsy Foundation also has tons of useful information.
- Self-esteem and quality of life: One of the most important nursing interventions for seizures is helping people with epilepsy to feel empowered and confident. Feelings of anxiety or depression are common among people with epilepsy - it’s important to watch out for signs of mental health problems.
While it varies depending on the individual, people with epilepsy can often live normal lives. If their doctor agrees, they should be encouraged to continue pursuing sports, activities and other interests as far as possible.
Nurses play a vital role in treating epilepsy
From seizure first aid through to long term care and emotional support, nurses play a vital role in the treatment of epilepsy.
If you have any uncertainties about seizure precautions in nursing, nursing diagnosis for seizures, or nursing interventions for seizures, contact an epilepsy specialist for more advice and guidance.