Recently, a study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (and recently published in the journal Research in Nursing and Health) demonstrates very clearly that nurses are excellent judges of the quality of care delivered in the facilities where they are employed. In fact, the study concludes that nurses' honesty and keen perception of what actually goes on in their workplaces could (and perhaps should, I would add) be a source of useful information regarding patient outcomes, quality of care, and other important factors.
What the data in this study shows us is that nurses' reports of quality of care correspond very closely with the data gathered from other sources (such as patient satisfaction scores), and that nurses' perception and reporting of the quality of care is exceedingly accurate and honest.
The study also demonstrated quite clearly that Magnet hospitals are more supportive of best practices and support the delivery of excellent care, and this focus on quality of care and nursing practice reaps many rewards both in patient satisfaction--and nurse satisfaction, as well.
In the nursing literature and blogosphere, it's often said that nurses are the backbone of the health care system. And if that backbone can, in effect, truthfully and accurately perceive the quality of care that is being provided to patients, then nurses should then be trusted barometers when it comes to assessing the quality of care and how it's delivered.
We nurses spend much more face time with patients than physicians, and we also interact more with the other members of the health care team more frequently. Nurses have intimate knowledge of the intricacies and machinations of the delivery of care in their respective institutions, and they are a fount of wisdom and insight into how care is delivered, and how it could be done differently. When decisions are being made and changes in care are being contemplated, nurses should be integral members of the team that assesses, plans, implements and evaluates those changes.
The study sponsored by Robert Wood Johnson basically confirms what most of us already believed. Nurses know the score, and the finger that nurses hold on the pulse of health care is one that can be trusted to be honest and accurate in its assessment of how the American health care system succeeds--or fails.