Ask Nurses About a Hospital's Quality

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Ask Nurses About a Hospital's Quality

The nurse knows

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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No one spends more time caring for hospitalized patients than nurses; it’s true — ask any nurse. Nurses are also the most frequent intermediaries between patients and a long list of other care providers. No one else is as uniquely positioned for close, regular, prolonged contact with patients.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that a new study published in the current issue of the journal Research in Nursing and Health finds that nurses are extremely accurate and reliable assessors of the quality of care provided in the hospitals in which they work.

The study, which analyzed data from four states, including California, asked hospital nurses, “How would you describe the quality of nursing care delivered to patients in your unit?” The possible responses were excellent, good, fair or poor.

An Insider’s View

The study found a strong correlation between the nurses’ responses and other indicators of quality of care. For example, where nurses reported that the quality of care was excellent, researchers found higher levels of patient satisfaction, superior processes of care and better patient outcomes, particularly in terms of mortality and failure to rescue.

“Nurses have insight into aspects of quality that aren’t always documented, but which can make the all-important difference in patient outcomes,” says Matthew McHugh, Ph.D., JD, RN, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and one of the study’s lead researchers. McHugh points out that while patients are the most important reporters of quality of care, nurses can report on quality in situations where patients can’t, such as critical care and pediatric settings.

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