To improve healthcare outcomes, empower nurses

Healthcare providers can achieve the necessary post-Affordable Care Act transformation by empowering nurses, according to Forbes.

The healthcare culture traditionally forces nurses into a supporting role compared to doctors and administrators in matters of policy and care optimization, but as nursing career paths evolve, nurse leadership roles increase, writes Forbes contributor Robert J. Szczerba.

"Studies confirm that empowered nurses provide the best patient care," American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) President Teri Lynn Kiss told Forbes. In 2012, AACN rolled out its Clinical Scene Investigator Academy, a 16-month hospital-based nurse leadership training program. Initial program results in Texas, Indiana, North Carolina and Massachusetts indicate more than $20 million saved, with results from New York and Pennsylvania still forthcoming.

On average, the four teams' initiatives "decreased patient length of stay in ICUs [intensive care units] and progressive care units by up to a full day," said Kiss. "They decreased by one day the time patients needed support from a mechanical ventilator. And they cut in half ICU complications and infections."

Raising nurse staffing levels could improve outcomes for underweight black infants as well, according to a new study published in the journal Health Services Research.

"Hospitals should consider increasing nurse staffing and improving work environments," co-author Jeannette A. Rogowski said in a statement. "Many payment systems to hospitals now include incentives to improve the quality of patient care. Under Medicaid, hospitals will lose money if infants acquire hospital infections that increase their hospital stay."

Listening to nurses' requests to address issues such as staffing levels is important, as nurses often feel hospitals deny them proper respect and a say in organization decisions and stakeholder collaboration, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the Forbes article
- here's the study abstract
- read the statement