Linda Flynn, R.N., Ph.D., is working to save lives. And not just one life at a time; she wants to save thousands of lives.
It’s a goal that is within reach, according to the results of a groundbreaking study she recently completed under the auspices of the Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI), a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that supports research to understand how nurses contribute to and can improve the quality of patient care.
Nurses who work in supportive environments and who have lighter patient caseloads are more likely to engage in safety procedures that help them identify medication errors and prevent errors from affecting the patient, she found in a study she completed last August. Better working environments for nurses, in other words, will help save some of the 7,000 lives that are lost in hospitals due to medication errors every year.
Flynn is now working to share the lessons she learned about how nurses, nurse managers and nurse educators can create better working environments for nurses and help nurses themselves hone the critical thinking skills needed to prevent mistakes from occurring.
“Without the funding from INQRI, this study would not have been possible,” she says.
The INQRI program is designed to spur scientific research into the work of nursing. Even though nurses represent the largest group of hospital health workers, relatively little is known about how their work affects patient outcomes. The INQRI program aims to change that by providing nurse researchers with grants to conduct scientific studies of how specific nursing practices affect the quality of patient care.
Under the program, nurse scientists partner with scholars from other disciplines. Together, the research teams work to fill in gaps of knowledge about the link between nursing practices and the quality of care. Nurse researchers and their partners receive up to $300,000 over two years to complete their work.
INQRI Program Now in the Process of Selecting its Fifth and Final Cohort
Program officials are now in the process of selecting the program’s fifth and final cohort of interdisciplinary teams. This last cohort of scholars will begin the grant period in November.
The program is based at the University of Pennsylvania and led by Mary Naylor, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., a nurse researcher, and Mark Pauly, Ph.D., a health economist. They work in collaboration with Lori Melichar, Ph.D., RWJF director.
Nancy Ryan-Wenger, Ph.D., R.N., C.P.N.P., an INQRI scholar who completed a study last fall exploring children’s opinions about the nursing care they received in hospitals, shares Flynn’s enthusiasm for the program.
“It was a wonderful opportunity,” she says. “We received a lot of good advice from our peers and positive feedback about the project and what we’re aiming to do. The INQRI program also provided many learning opportunities to improve our research.”
Ryan-Wenger was inspired to apply for an INQRI grant after she first read the patient-satisfaction questionnaire used by officials at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where she is director of nursing research. She was surprised to find that most questions were aimed at the parent’s experience rather than the child’s.
For her project, researchers interviewed 500 hospitalized children and their parents about the care that the children received from nurses during their hospital stays. She found sharp differences in opinion between parents and their children—information that she says can be used to better serve Nationwide’s pediatric patients.
She ultimately hopes that a pediatric patient experience tool developed from the study will be used on a national scale to gauge opinions of the 3 million children who are hospitalized each year, a group of patients that she calls the “silent consumers of care.”
“Children’s voices need to be heard about what’s going well and what’s not going well with their hospital experience,” she says. “We can learn a lot from them.”