For example, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality points to nurse-led programs at Seton Northwest Hospital in Texas, "which has allowed nurses to be more efficient and spend more time with patients, reduced falls and nurse turnover, accelerated patient discharge, and yielded positive feedback from staff and patients."
Researchers in the QI-program participation study compared participation levels in hospital QI activities for RNs who were first licensed between 2004 and 2005, and RNs who were first licensed between 2007 and 2008.
The research team found little difference in participation levels between the two groups for a number of activities. They include performance measurement, working to improve processes or systems of care, monitoring sustainability of improved practices, and efforts at performance improvement. The only exception was "use of appropriate strategies to improve hand washing compliance to reduce nosocomial infection rates."
According to researchers, the findings not only suggest that nurses are being underutilized, they also show a real need for hospitals to work with nursing schools now to shore up their QI efforts down the road.
"These findings underscore the need for hospitals to collaborate with nursing schools to develop effective strategies to ensure that RNs expect and are prepared to engage in QI activities," researcher Maja Djukic, PhD, RN, assistant professor at the College of Nursing, New York University, said in a statement.
"Nurses are an important resource in efforts to improve care and patient outcomes, and right now, that resource is too often being underutilized."