How Do Nurses Affect Patient Outcomes?

Nursing outranks 21 other professions when it comes to honesty and ethics. In fact, it has done so for 16 years in a row. In the 2017 Gallup Poll Americans’ Ratings of Honesty and Ethical Standards in Professions, 82 percent of respondents rated nurses’ honesty and ethical standards as “very high” or “high.”

Medical doctors and pharmacists also ranked highly in the 2017 honesty and ethics poll. However, nurses surpassed doctors by 17 percent and pharmacists by 20. Clearly, trust is a quality that sets registered nurses (RNs) apart in the healthcare professions.

Trust is just one of the factors affecting patient outcomes. Education is another. Higher levels of education in nursing are linked to better patient outcomes. In fact, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is increasingly becoming the preferred degree for RNs.

An RN to BSN bridge program gives RNs with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) a convenient way to take the next step in their careers. The University of Southern Indiana (USI) offers an RN to BSN program that equips RNs with the core competencies nurses need today. Students can complete their degree in as few as 14 months, ready to improve patient outcomes.

Can Trust Improve Patient Outcomes?

Taking another look at the Gallup Poll, you’ll see that people trust RNs more than military officers, teachers, doctors, pharmacists, police officers and even judges. “People connect with nurses and trust them to do the right thing,” said former American Nurses Association President Karen A. Daley, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, in a statement about the poll.

As of March 2018, there were nearly 3 million professionally active RNs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which also reports that RNs make up the largest segment of the healthcare workforce in the United States.

RNs are considered the “frontline” of patient care. They are often the first to see patients and are more involved in direct patient care than other healthcare professionals. This positions RNs to play a leading role in establishing a culture of patient-centered care.

Patient-centered care is one of six areas of focus for transforming the healthcare system. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) — now the National Academy of Medicine — defines patient-centered care as “care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values.”

In “If You Build It, Will They Come? Designing Truly Patient-Centered Health Care,” authors Christine Bechtel and Debra L. Ness report on what patients really want and need from their primary care providers. Through their research, they identified trust and respect as “the essential foundation” of patient-centered healthcare.

A review of 47 studies supports the connection between patient trust and health outcomes. In particular, this analysis found a significant correlation between trust and patient satisfaction. Patients also reported:

  • More positive health behaviors.
  • Higher quality of life.
  • Fewer symptoms.

How Is Education Improving Outcomes?

Many RNs are familiar with the “80 percent by 2020” initiative. In 2010, the IOM published “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.” In what is considered a landmark report, the IOM recommended that 80 percent of the nursing workforce have a BSN by 2020.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s report “Building the Case for More Highly Educated Nurses” takes a look at the well-established link between education and patient outcomes. A decade of research comes down to this: Patients in hospitals with more BSN-prepared nurses have “a substantial survival advantage.” They have a smaller chance of dying, shorter hospital stays and lower healthcare costs.

These patient outcomes are hard to argue with.

RN to BSN programs offer a convenient and flexible opportunity for RNs to advance their education and improve patient outcomes. Students at USI, for example, build a professional foundation in:

  • Evidence-based practice.
  • Healthcare informatics.
  • Critical thinking and creative problem-solving.
  • Communication skills to improve collaboration with healthcare teams.
  • Primary prevention, health promotion, disease and injury prevention.
  • Nursing leadership and care coordination.

In addition to contributing directly to improved patient outcomes, BSN-prepared nurses can expect to have better job prospects.

Based on employment projections, RNs will continue to make up the greatest segment of the healthcare workforce for years to come. Whether in hospitals, public health centers, schools, homes or other settings, RNs are well-positioned to lead the way in efforts to improve patient outcomes.

Learn more about the University of Southern Indiana’s online RN to BSN program.


Gallup: Nurses Keep Healthy Lead as Most Honest, Ethical Profession

NCBI: The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health

HealthLeaders: Nurses Voted ‘Most Trusted’ Profession, Again

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: TED: The Economics Daily

Institute of Medicine: Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century

Health Affairs: If You Build It, Will They Come? Designing Truly Patient-Centered Health Care

PLOS One: Trust in the Health Care Professional and Health Outcome: A Meta-Analysis

The National Academy of Medicine: The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Building the Case for More Highly Educated Nurses

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