"It's been published that if you standardize the care that you are giving and don't deviate from standardized approach, then the outcomes will be better," says Harrington. "That means we standardize the nursing care and we do it the same way over and over again, based off the identified best practice."
Nurse leaders may be concerned with how nursing staff will react to the prospect of peer review. Without education to the contrary, many nurses mistakenly believe it punishes nurses' mistakes. Harrington says it's important that nurses understand that peer review is about improving care and fixing system failures, and that the end result is educational.
"I think nurse leadership has to be the one who drives the process," says Harrington. "They have to have the buy in to say that this is the right thing to do for our patients. So we can identify trends and challenges, barriers to delivering nursing care, and make changes accordingly."
Harrington says physicians have done peer review for decades and that nursing should too. "If we don't do it now, someone else will do it to us. I think in the future it will be a mandated requirement," she says.
That's already the case in some places. Organizations pursuing ANCC Magnet Recognition Program® designation are required to have some form of nursing peer review in place, the Texas Board of Nurses requires peer review, and it's likely that other designating bodies will become interested in the process.
"I think the question should be, why wouldn't you do it?," Harrington says. "If you haven't done it, you should. It's the right thing to do."