Exploring oral care practices, barriers, and facilitators in an inpatient stroke unit: a thematic analysis

Lauren Hammond, Tiffany Conroy, Joanne Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Oral care is essential to support the health and rehabilitation of stroke survivors but is often performed poorly in the inpatient setting. This article examines the current practices, barriers and facilitators to oral care on an Australian stroke unit to inform future knowledge translation interventions within this setting. Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with nursing staff members and speech-language pathologists with experience delivering oral care to stroke survivors. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Results: Three themes were developed from the data. In the first theme, participants described current oral care practices within their stroke unit and acknowledged that there is room for improvement. In the second theme, participants identified the multiple overlapping barriers to oral care delivery on the ward. Finally, the third theme explored participants’ suggestions for improving oral care, including both local and organisational change. Conclusions: This study illustrates the complexities of oral care in the inpatient stroke setting and gives voice to the perspectives of nursing and speech-language pathology staff. It is clear that future oral health interventions in this setting require a comprehensive approach to addressing barriers and should prioritise the concerns of staff delivering the care.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION The delivery of good oral care post-stroke is essential, but in practice is difficult due to limited time and supplies, inadequate education, fear of harm to patient and self, and perceived low priority of the care. Speech-language pathologists are often involved in oral care, but their role is not clearly delineated, and they are not provided with formal training in oral care provision. Oral care interventions should be comprehensive, including organisational policies, clear practice guidelines, structured multi-disciplinary education, and appropriate supplies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)796-804
Number of pages9
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number5
Early online date21 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • fundamentals of care
  • Oral care
  • oral health
  • rehabilitation
  • stroke
  • thematic analysis


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