Healthcare News & Insights

Nursing workforce safe practices: Are hospitals doing enough?

When it comes to quality care, nurses play a vital role. They spend the most time with patients and provide the majority of clinical care. But are hospitals doing enough to support their nurses? 

ThinkstockPhotos-465497005According to  a study by Castlight Health developed for The Leapfrog Group, the answer is no.

While the study found hospitals are making improvements, there’s a lot more they can do to attain Leapfrog’s standard for nursing, based on Safe Practice 9 — Nursing Workforce from the National Quality Forum (NQF) endorsed safe practices.

Currently, there are 21 endorsed safe nursing practices, and 40% of the facilities that participated in the Leapfrog Hospital Survey did not comply with all 21. However, the facilities that received full credit did increase from 52% to 60% in 2014.

The safe practices require that nursing staff and leadership are capable of providing “adequate and safe care.” To do this, hospitals must comply with all 21 Leapfrog nursing workforce safe practices or achieve Magnet Status from the American Nursing Credentials Center which recognizes healthcare organizations for quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice.

Sixteen percent of hospitals achieved Magnet Status in 2014, which is up ever so slightly from 15.5% in 2013, according to the report.

Survey breakdown

The nursing workforce safe practice questions in the Leapfrog survey are broken down in four areas:

  • Awareness — These questions evaluate if the hospital performs risk assessments and evaluations of patient-safety events related to nurse staffing, and do they provide feedback to all leadership levels.
  • Accountability — This area looks at whether senior nursing leadership is included as part of the facility’s management team. Do they report performance metrics related to nursing workforce safe practices to the board, as well as hold all leadership accountable through performance reviews/compensation structures?
  • Ability — This category looks at whether or not the hospital conducts staff training and whether it provides the budget required to guarantee adequate and competent nursing staff.
  • Action — Here the survey is looking at whether or not the facility implements policies and procedures to ensure adequate staffing is achieved, and if it provides an annual report on progress to the public.

The survey, however, doesn’t measure nurse-to-patient ratios.

Direct link

Currently, registered nurses make up the largest group of healthcare professionals and approximately 58% of them are employed by hospitals. Despite this, few measures exist that focus on the nursing workforce in hospitals.

And as a hospital executive, you know the focus right now is on improving quality of care, and patient satisfaction. And since there’s a direct link between nursing and high-quality care what better way is there to achieve this than improving nursing standards?

“Anyone who has ever been a patient in a hospital knows how critical the nurses are to health and life,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, in a news release.

While most hospitals have taken some steps to improve their nursing standards and safety, the report suggests looking at other hospitals that have achieved high standards of care and adapting their methods to fit your facility.

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