Nursing Excellence Makes a Difference to Patients

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media , January 26, 2010

As chief nurse, Erickson meets each month with the staff nurse advisory committee that represents each clinical area in the hospital. "It's a wonderful opportunity for them to have dialogue with the chief about the things that are worrying them, such as facilitators and barriers to care delivery. They are not shy about bringing system-related issues, supply-related issues, anything that's on their mind. We solve problems in the moment, and they feel totally empowered," says Erickson.

I asked Erickson about nurse-patient ratios at her organization—a big satisfier for nurses and patients—and her answer shows why the organization's nurses rate it highly.

"At the end of the day, the staff nurses are the ones who are able to make a decision as to whether they need to have more people on duty or less people on duty," says Erickson. "They don't have to get my permission or the nursing director's permission to call someone in for help. They can just go ahead and do it. In my opinion, there is no bigger problem related to patient safety and quality than to have to seek permission when you need assistance to take care of patients. I view all of our nurses as leaders. They are very competent and they can make these decisions about what resources they need in the moment."

All these things set Mass General's nurses apart. "The happiness comes from satisfaction with work," says Morash. "At the end of the day, if you know your patients are getting great care, you're satisfied with your work, and you feel supported and valued, I think that's going to translate into friendliness."

Hospital patients, often scared, sick, and vulnerable, depend upon competent, professional, compassionate nurses. That's what they'll remember when they talk to family and friends, or when you've asked them to rate their experience.

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Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at

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