The Role of Nurses in Hospital Quality Improvement

As the nation's hospitals face increasing demands to participate in a wide range of quality improvement activities, the role and influence of nurses in these efforts is also increasing, according to a new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). Hospital organizational cultures set the stage for quality improvement and nurses' roles in those activities. Hospitals with supportive leadership, a philosophy of quality as everyone's responsibility, individual accountability, physician and nurse champions, and effective feedback reportedly offer greater promise for successful staff engagement in improvement activities.

Yet hospitals confront challenges with regard to nursing involvement, including: scarcity of nursing resources; difficulty engaging nurses at all levels—from bedside to management; growing demands to participate in more, often duplicative, quality improvement activities; the burdensome nature of data collection and reporting; and shortcomings of traditional nursing education in preparing nurses for their evolving role in today's contemporary hospital setting. Because nurses are the key caregivers in hospitals, they can significantly influence the quality of care provided and, ultimately, treatment and patient outcomes. Consequently, hospitals' pursuit of high-quality patient care is dependent, at least in part, on their ability to engage and use nursing resources effectively, which will likely become more challenging as these resources become increasingly limited.