Survey: Nurses should have stronger voice in healthcare decision making

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From reducing medical errors, increasing the quality of care and promoting wellness to improving efficiency and reducing costs, a new survey from Gallup on the behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that a majority of healthcare opinion leaders believe nurses should have more influence on health systems and services.

However, respondents cited significant barriers that prevent nurses from fully participating as leaders in healthcare.

The survey’s results were based on telephone interviews with 1,504 national opinion leaders including insurance, corporate, health services, government and industry thought leaders as well as university faculty conducted from Aug. 18, 2009, to Oct. 30, 2009.

"Nurses are highly trusted sources of healthcare information, but as we look to reform our health system, our nation is not taking advantage of all that nurses have to offer," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO of the Princeton, N.J.-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). "This survey shows that opinion leaders recognize that we are squandering opportunities to learn from nurses and implement their ideas."

“We must build on the widespread trust of nurses' expertise as an essential component in leading and implementing reform," concluded Lavizzo-Mourey.

Opinion leaders identified that nurses are not perceived as important decision makers or revenue generators compared with doctors and do not have a single voice on national issues as major barriers, according to the RWJF.

Other key findings include:

  • Opinion leaders reported that nurses' primary areas of influence are reducing medical errors (51 percent), improving quality of care (50 percent) and coordinating patient care in the healthcare system (40 percent).
  • Large majorities of opinion leaders said they would like to see nurses have more influence in a large number of areas, including reducing medical errors and improving patient safety (90 percent), improving quality of care (89 percent), promoting wellness and expanding preventive care (86 percent), improving healthcare efficiency and reducing costs (84 percent), coordinating care through the healthcare system (83 percent), helping the healthcare system adapt to an aging population (83 percent) and increasing access to healthcare (74 percent).
  • Seventy-five percent of opinion leaders said government officials will have a great deal of influence in healthcare reform in the next five to 10 years, compared with 56 percent for insurance executives, 46 percent for pharmaceutical executives, 46 percent  for healthcare executives, 37 percent for doctors, 20 percent for patients and 14 percent for nurses.

"Every day, I see nurses exercise their clinical judgment and leadership skills to make important and much-needed changes that increase access to and improve the quality and affordability of healthcare,” said Reed V. Tuckson, MD, executive vice president and chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group. “Therefore, it is essential that we do more to support nurses in taking on leadership positions and ensure that they have a place and a voice at decision-making tables."