What Can Nurses Do to Further Improve Patient Quality Care?

Cartoon of male and female nurses - image for article on nursing

The healthcare industry is currently experiencing strain from all sides. Upheaval caused by the COVID-19 epidemic is still creating substantial difficulties in terms of shifting policy and standards, increased demands, heightened health risks, complicated safety protocols, and more. Medical staff numbers have plummeted due to high levels of burnout, stress, and unsustainable work conditions. Hospital systems are scrambling to meet increased and changing healthcare demands. 

In the midst of all this, it can be difficult to maintain care quality for the patients that enter medical facilities needing care. For nurses and other medical professionals, it can be easy to become discouraged. However, employing concrete strategies for improving the quality of care provided by medical organizations not only ensures a better experience for patients but is grounded in improving the quality of life and employment for medical staff and personnel as well.

Ways Nurses Can Contribute to Lasting Improvement in Patient Care Quality

Nurses often take the brunt of the stress healthcare systems experience for a few reasons. Nurses serve as the front line for patients. They often receive patients first and interact with them most throughout their care experience across a wide range of health needs. However, nurses don’t always have the decision-making power to act autonomously. They must work with other factions or superiors within their healthcare facility to make changes or improve processes. 

Thus, nurses often need to work collaboratively with other factions and personnel to improve processes that will elevate the level of patient care quality their institution can deliver. Though this process can take a bit of effort and time, it can be incredibly effective. The following three strategic areas are aspects of the care process to which nurses can bring attention in order to create systemic improvement.

Advocate for Better Monitoring, Reporting, and Data Procedures 

Data tracking and reporting can be a huge catalyst for care improvement. However, instituting an effective measurement scheme is not as simple as it sounds. Measurement and data analysis efforts can sometimes require medical staff to institute what become time-consuming or complicated reporting processes. When these reporting steps do not yield effective learnings or provide actual benefit to the care process by limiting treatment mistakes and increasing effectiveness, they should be reassessed and improved. This is difficult to do without the front-line insights of nursing staff.

To help improve data tracking and making sure it is providing ongoing benefits to medical staff and patients, nurses can help management and decision-makers understand how current data collection and reporting protocols are affecting the care process. They can ask for evidence that those protocols are being used and implemented the way they should be. Being involved in shaping how reporting is implemented in care improvement can help ensure that those processes are actually feasible and are creating tangible benefits for patients.

Contribute to Better Schedule Management and Design 

There are a number of reasons that scheduling and shift management is a key factor that determines the long-term sustainability and vitality of a healthcare institution. When shift design does not work effectively or does not allow for sustainability and a quality work experience for nurses and other medical personnel, healthcare facilities can suffer high rates of burnout and staff turnover. Resultingly, patients experience less-than-optimal care quality. 

Shift problems and risk factors can include scheduling nurses for too many consecutive shifts, not adequately preparing personnel for extended or night shifts, or requiring more overtime work per week or double shifts than is healthy or sustainable. All of these risky shift practices increase the rate of staff turnover and burnout as well as decreasing patient care quality and increasing treatment mistakes.

To help your institution avoid these problems and increase the quality and sustainability of shift assignment and design, nurses can speak up about where they currently experience problems. It can be much more effective to present solutions rather than simply point out weaknesses in the schedule design process, so take the time to formulate suggestions and alternatives to current problem areas. Helping create better scheduling practice can create a wealth of improvements for your organization. It not only creates better working environments for staff but can dramatically heighten care quality for patients as well.

Develop Awareness of the Factors that Contribute to Nurse Depletion and Burnout

Nurses experience significant workplace stress and serve in demanding roles. When healthcare institutions or organizations aren’t proactive in combatting these stress points and helping nurses navigate the unique challenges of their profession, nurses’ difficult workplace experiences can ultimately contribute to decreased patient care quality. It’s imperative that nurses help their institutions and management understand the challenges they face and help influence methods of lessening those challenges to improve the experience of both staff and patients.

Nurses can help decision makers in their organizations understand how the realities and nuances of large-scale staffing shortages, aging populations, high nurse-to-patient ratios, and inadequate access to continuing professional development and education all contribute to nursing burnout and lessened patient care quality. Working together, nurses and healthcare facility management can design strategies for changing these realities over time and better equipping nurses to provide ample, quality care for patients.

Though the challenges faced by both nurses and the whole of the healthcare system are significant, they can be surmounted. Effective communication and addressing the pressure points that contribute to lessened care quality can help nurses make a huge difference in the quality of their workplace experience and in the level of care they provide to their patients.

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