Publication Date

Spring 2018

Degree Type

Doctoral Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)



First Advisor

Arlene Spilker

Second Advisor

Judith Foyabo

Third Advisor

Nhi Amy Nguyen


Barriers to care, Autism spectrum disorder


The increased prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) foretells that this sector of the population will be accessing health care services in greater numbers; thus, it behooves healthcare providers to prepare for their impending needs. This qualitative study describes the experiences of baccalaureate prepared registered nurses caring for children and adolescents with ASD in order to identify challenges that hinder providing comprehensive and individualized care. A purposive sample of 10 baccalaureate degreed registered nurses (RNs) who have worked or work in the pediatric unit was used to gather rich descriptive experiences. The qualitative data analyses were based on an interpretive phenomenological approach. The participants identified two significant barriers to the quality care of the individuals with ASD in the pediatric setting. The first barrier, “Knowledge Deficit About ASD,” embodies lack of general knowledge about the ASD population. The second barrier, “Not Knowing the ASD Patient,” entails the importance of having the knowledge needed to individualize the care of individuals with ASD. The unresolved barriers that nurses face when caring for patients with ASD, along with the absence of guidelines, limited educational content, and insufficient in-service training underscores the need to establish evidence-based practice guidelines for individuals with ASD. Additionally, the resounding findings of this study, “Knowledge Deficit About ASD,” and “Not Knowing the ASD Patient,” indicate a need to change nursing education to efficiently train undergraduates, graduates, and faculty to adequately care for patients with ASD.


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