Nurses are the largest group of health care providers in the U.S., and health care leaders and experts agree that engaging registered nurses (RNs) in quality improvement (QI) efforts is essential to improving our health care system, patient care and our nation's health. Unfortunately, despite studies demonstrating the value of nurse-led quality improvement efforts, far too few nurses are involved in these efforts, and the number is not growing, according to a study published in the Journal of Nursing Care Quality.
The study—part of the RN Work Project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)—compared the participation levels for RNs who were first licensed between 2004 and 2005, and RNs first licensed between 2007 and 2008 in hospital QI activities. The research team found little difference in participation levels between the two cohorts for a variety of activities, including 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." (Hospital acquired infections.)
The research team included Maja Djukic, PhD, RN, assistant professor at the College of Nursing, New York University; Christine Kovner, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor at the College of Nursing, New York University; Carol Brewer, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor at the School of Nursing, University at Buffalo; and Ilya Bernstein, BS, RN, Langone Medical Center, New York University. Kovner and Brewer direct the RN Work Project.
"We expected to find a greater variation in QI participation between the two groups," said Djukic. "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. Nurses are an important resource in efforts to improve care and patient outcomes, and right now, that resource is too often being underutilized."