Nurses: The biggest factor in providing better care?

The conventional thinking goes that better doctors will lead to better care, but perhaps it's really nurses who have more power to improve patient outcomes.

One organization, the nonprofit Partners in Health (PIH), thinks so--which is why it has started a mentorship program that aims to extend patients' lives by training better nurses, according to NPR. The program, which began in Rwanda in 2010 and Haiti in 2012, is expected to expand to Liberia and Sierra Leone, both of which are still reeling from the Ebola outbreak.

Noting a World Health Organization report that nurses provide as much as 90 percent of healthcare services in the world, PIH Chief Nursing Officer Sheila Davis told NPR that "Nurses are also often the voice of patients because they are with them so much of the time. So we're trying to raise the standard of care by raising the standard of nursing."

Indeed, better trained and happier nurses have been linked to better clinical outcomes, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Davis advocates training nurses directly in the organization in which they will serve, which helps prevent "brain drain" and acclimates clinicians to the culture and specific community needs relative to their workplace. A similar method has been employed in the United States as rural areas aim to stem healthcare worker shortages by offering incentives to clinicians who agree to train and work in underserved communities, FierceHealthcare has reported.

While the likelihood of a nationwide physician shortage in the U.S. has been widely debated, many states are nevertheless moving to expand the scope of care that advance practice registered nurses are able to offer, which many believe will improve the overall quality of care in the healthcare system, according to previous FierceHealthcare reports.

In its work abroad, PIH has found that orchestrating mentorship between senior and junior nurses, is also a crucial--and universal--component in effective clinician training, Davis told NPR. She advised that experienced nurses sit in directly on nurse-patient interactions for nurses in training to address issues and provide guidance.

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