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For a Quality Metrics Reality Check, Just Ask a Nurse

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, October 9, 2012

Nurse leaders, I have a homework assignment for you. Formally survey your staff about their perceptions of your hospital's quality of care. It might be one of the most enlightening things you can do to get an accurate, big-picture look at how well your organization is caring for its patients.

Staff nurses probably didn't need a study to tell them this, but research shows that nurses provide an exceptionally accurate barometer for measuring hospital quality.

The retrospective study, published in the journal Research in Nursing and Health, used data from 396 acute care hospitals and 16,241 nurses from California, Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Jersey. Researchers compared nurses' reports on quality of care from the Multi-State Nursing Care and Patient Safety Study from 2006–2007 with outcomes data such as patient assessments; care measures for heart failure, pneumonia, acute myocardial infarction and surgical care; and administrative data on mortality and failure to rescue.

Nurses were asked "How would you describe the quality of nursing care delivered to patients in your unit?" They could answer excellent, good, fair, and poor. As it turns out, the way they answered this question strongly correlated to actual outcomes data.

The researchers found that nurse reports of excellent care did, in fact, correspond with higher levels of patient satisfaction, better scores for processes of care, and better results for patients in the hospital with regard to mortality and failure to rescue.

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