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How Can Nurses Improve Patient Outcomes?

A nurse’s duty is to provide patient care that results in positive outcomes. Nurses who complete an RN to BSN degree program are prepared to meet the challenges that they will encounter in healthcare, which enables them to reduce the likelihood of medical errors. Furthermore new initiatives that incorporate technology and research are aiding in the advancement of safe patient care.

Why Should Nurses Have a BSN?

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), known as the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) as of 2015, concludes that a higher level of nursing education decreases negative patient outcomes. Thus, the IOM recommends in its 2010 report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health that 80 percent of the nursing workforce have a BSN by 2020.

Here are some recent studies that confirm the IOM’s position.

Nurse Staffing and Education and Hospital Mortality in Nine European Countries: A Retrospective Observational Study — For every 10 percent increase in BSN-prepared nurses, there is a 7 percent reduction in the chance of patients dying.

An Increase in the Number of Nurses With Baccalaureate Degrees Is Linked to Lower Rates of Postsurgery Mortality — The decrease in the number of fatal surgical outcomes in hospitals is associated with an increased proportion of BSN-prepared nurses.

Baccalaureate Education in Nursing and Patient Outcomes — Patients in hospitals with more BSN-prepared nurses have lower mortality rates and shorter stays.

What Is Being Done to Campaign for Quality Patient Care?

In 2011, the National Quality Strategy was published to guide healthcare organizations with three aims and six priorities for improving patient care. The three aims are:

  1. Promoting safe and quality patient care.
  2. Addressing the overall health of people and communities.
  3. Ensuring everyone can afford healthcare.

The six priorities further expand on the three aims to provide optimal, affordable and effective patient care. In addition, the priorities focus on the significance of good communication and coordination of care and educating communities about healthy living choices.

What Initiatives Support Better Patient Outcomes?

The three largest healthcare systems in the country are incorporating information technology (IT) tools into the nursing practice to assist in providing improved patient care.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Nurses use data that helps them with clinical decision support (CDS), facilitates workflow and monitors improvements. A Real Time Locator System (RTLS) streamlines nursing and patient workflow by boosting communication to cut down on inefficiencies that impact patient care. Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA) reduces the rate of medication errors.

Kaiser Permanente (KP)

KP has the largest private electronic health record (EHR). The KP EHR has CDS tools built into it so nurses have access to evidence-based research, which they can apply to individualize care. A Clinical Care Dashboard is also part of the EHR. Nurses can view clinical and quality indicators for all of their patients. The indicators alert nurses to patients at risk for falls and pressure ulcers, and they monitor for the possibility of catheter-associated infections.

Mobile technology has the potential to improve patient outcomes. KP is working with IT and communication experts to implement an operating system compatible with tablets, notebooks and smartphones. Nurses can easily communicate and message other team members, view task lists and retrieve research via electronic devices.

Ascension Health

At Ascension Health, a Closed Loop Medication Administration System (CLMDS) is used to prevent errors at each phase of the medication process. Likewise, the organization incorporates other initiatives such as workstations on wheels (WOW) and the “Partners in Excellence App.” The mobile app delivers patient information on handheld devices.

Nurses play a major role in improving patient outcomes. They can put patients at ease by delivering compassionate care. When patients feel comfortable with nurses, they are more likely to open up about their level of pain and discomfort. Moreover nurses are vital to advancing research because they have constant interaction with patients. As a result, they are a valuable source of pertinent knowledge regarding the best practices for exceptional patient care.

Learn more about the Lamar University online RN to BSN program.


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: 2014 Annual Progress Report to Congress: National Strategy for Quality Improvement in Health Care

The Lancet: Nurse Staffing and Education and Hospital Mortality in Nine European Countries: A Retrospective Observational Study

Elsevier: Yes, Nurses Do Research, and It’s Improving Patient Care

The Journal of Nursing Administration: Baccalaureate Education in Nursing and Patient Outcomes

RWJF: Building the Case for More Highly Educated Nurses

Project HOPE: An Increase in the Number of Nurses With Baccalaureate Degrees Is Linked to Lower Rates of Postsurgery Mortality

National Academy of Medicine: Report Recommendations

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: AACN Applauds New Lancet Study Linking Nursing Education and Patient Outcomes

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: The Influence of Quality Improvement Efforts on Patient Outcomes and Nursing Work: A Perspective From Chief Nursing Officers at Three Large Health Systems Nurses’ Compassionate Care Affects Patient Outcomes

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