The Role of Sitters in Delirium: an Update


  • Frances M. Carr University of Saskatchewan



delirium, constant observation, sitters, volunteers



The concept behind constant observation is not new. Whilst traditionally performed by nursing staff, it is now commonly performed by sitters. Details surrounding the usage, job description, training, clinical and cost effectiveness of sitters are not known; hence the reason for this review.


A literature search was performed in MEDLINE, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and PubMed from the years 1960 to October 2011. The definition for sitter used in the articles was accepted for this review.


From this review, it is evident that sitters are being employed in a variety of settings. The question of which type of person would provide the most benefit in the sitter role is still not clear; whilst sitters have typically included family and volunteers, it may be trained volunteers who may offer the most cost-effective solution. The paucity of information available regarding the training and assessments of sitters and the lack of formal guidelines regulating sitters’ use results in a lack of information available regarding these sitters, and current available evidence is conflicting regarding the benefits in terms of cost and clinical outcome. The only strong evidence relating to clinical benefit comes from the use of fully-trained sitters as part of a multi-interventional program (i.e., HELP)


Current evidence supports a role for the sitter as part of the management of patients with delirium. The most cost-effective sitter role appears to be trained volunteers. Further research is needed to determine the specific type of training required for the sitter role. The creation of a national set of regulations or guidelines would provide safeguards in the industry to ensure safe and effective patient care.


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How to Cite

Carr FM. The Role of Sitters in Delirium: an Update. Can Geriatr J [Internet]. 2012 Dec. 3 [cited 2023 May 28];16(1):22-36. Available from:



Systematic Reviews/Meta-analysis