Data – the word conjures up the image of information and statistics that may be quite important, but are probably boring as well. After all, we’re bombarded with data in this digital age. But here’s another way to look at it: Data that is gathered, analyzed, shared, and put to use to improve the quality of health care – and nursing care – is not only important, but vital and exciting.
The concept of nursing sensitive quality indicators opened the door for data that can truly change nursing practice. These “indicators” are elements of patient care that are directly affected by nursing practice – for example, research has shown that understaffing in nursing units is linked to higher rates of adverse patient outcomes. Once a nursing sensitive indicator (like staffing issues) has been identified, research can help establish ways in which that element of nursing practice can be influenced, in order to improve outcomes. So, research and data are both important parts of the equation when it comes to establishing evidence-based practice guidelines.
The National Database of Nursing Quality IndicatorsTM (NDNQI®) is the first national database to collect nursing-specific data. It starts with an established list of nursing sensitive indicators, and collects data from over 1500 hospitals in the U.S. Participating hospitals receive quarterly and annual reports that evaluate nursing care at the unit level – along with comparisons to national averages and percentile rankings, so nursing administrators can see where they stand.
This data is real, it’s important, and it’s changing the way nursing is practiced. As we’ve already pointed out, linkages between staffing levels and patient outcomes have already become clear through the use of this database, and staffing practices have evolved to provide a safer environment for patients, as well as a better workplace for nurses.
Other new projects are also attempting to establish databases that measure and improve nursing practice. These include the Military Nursing Outcomes Database and the VA Nursing Outcomes Database.
Nurses with a clear vision of the future are already talking about the next steps: establishing nursing sensitive quality indicators for maternity, primary care, public health, and other areas of medicine that rely on a strong nursing skills. Once the indicators are identified, we can begin to collect data on how these indicators affect the quality of care and outcomes, so best practices can be established. Eventually, nursing-specific databases will provide hard data on large populations of patients, allowing us to quickly identify patterns among nursing interventions. Which nursing interventions make a difference? Which ones carry the potential for harm?
Nursing databases are positioned to absolutely revolutionize nursing, by providing a feedback loop for identifying and advancing nursing interventions that really make a difference to patients – and to the entire health care system, which is clearly in need of a makeover right now. So do you still think data is boring?