Why is a clinical nurse leader an asset to any hospital?
Before 2003, the health care industry was experiencing an estimated $29 billion annual loss due to medical errors, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Additionally, these mistakes resulted in up to 98,000 preventable deaths every year. As a result of these staggering figures and to address the potential 20% nursing shortage by 2020, the AACN worked with others in the nursing field to create the position of clinical nurse leader (CNL).
This is not strictly a management or administrative position, though CNLs do frequently manage and coordinate multi-department teams to maximize the effectiveness of health care outcomes. These professionals bridge the gap between evidence-based health care strategies and clinical practices. They are constantly striving to find innovative and cost-effective ways to improve quality of care at their hospital or health care facility.
Why are CNLs beneficial to hospitals and patients?
Many hospitals could benefit from adding CNLs to their staff. As health care facilities deal with difficulties such as more patient expectations, increased demands for access to care, government mandates to improve patient-centered care and financial constraints, it is essential to have high-quality management and expertise throughout the patient care process.
One problem many health care environments face is a lack of communication between different departments or professions. CNLs serve as the liaison between these groups to maximize patient care outcomes and improve the operating efficiency of their health care organization.
CNLs identify and address problems related to nursing responsibilities in the health care system. They design and continually improve ongoing risk reduction and management programs, along with managing client care and information technology features. As they have successfully completed an intensive master’s program and passed their CNL certification exam, they also have the ability to learn to use and teach new health care technologies to their staff, co-workers, and superiors.
CNLs serve as advocates for patients and their families, along with being mentors for new nurses on their teams. They must facilitate a culture of safety and innovation at the hospital they serve. Though they are directly involved in their patients’ care, they are responsible for looking at the big picture and discovering how to create sustainable and effective alternatives to current processes and health care strategies.
Beyond the obvious benefits associated with reducing medical errors and improving communication, CNLs can offer numerous positive benefits for health care organizations. By hiring CNLs to your team, they can be an instant asset by improving the following four key areas on any nursing staff.
1. Emphasizing quality improvement
The term “quality improvement” within the nursing field refers to the systematic and continuous strategies that result in measurable improvements in overall health care services. This is directly linked to health care professionals’ service delivery approach and existing systems of care at an organizational level. Four key tenets of a quality improvement (QI) program include focusing on patients, being part of a team, using data, and operating under accepted systems and processes.
Each QI program may look different depending on the hospital or based upon the health care professionals who enact it. To maximize the effectiveness of their QI program or improve it, hospital leaders should consider enlisting the assistance of a CNL professional. As CNLs are dedicated to creating evidence-based treatment strategies and collaborating with interdisciplinary teams, they will be foundational leaders in the QI process at the point of care.
2. Discovering and analyzing trends
Patient safety is one of the leading reasons why data analysis in the health care industry is essential. As mentioned previously, preventable medical errors caused thousands of patients to die and billions of dollars in losses every year. Since the introduction of the CNL role, these numbers have decreased. This is because CNLs work with decision-makers to help reduce the level of error in health care.
As CNL professionals use evidence-based strategies and clinical practices to improve patient care, they are trained to discover and learn from key data trends. This level of detail and commitment to research builds upon foundational levels of safety at any hospital. Essentially, CNLs can learn from past mistakes and identify areas where health care leaders can improve. This will boost patient outcomes and decrease the chances of medical malpractice.
3. Improving quality of patient care
How many times has a lack of communication led to negative patient care outcomes? Perhaps one physician recommends a certain treatment plan, yet does not effectively communicate this strategy to the nursing staff or a specialist. This may result in a lapse in the patient’s recovery or worse. To effectively bridge this communication gap, hospitals need to onboard knowledgeable CNL professionals who will manage patients’ care from start to finish. This ensures that less stands in the way of a hospital providing the best care for its patients.
One of the main causes of care falling short of industry standards is resource allocation issues, such as workforce shortages or outdated equipment, or a lack of adherence to proper standards and policies. Whether intentional or due to a general lack of understanding about the field or work experience, it is vital for hospitals to take steps to mitigate and eliminate these issues. This is where CNLs can help improve working conditions and work with interdisciplinary teams to improve quality of care.
4. Boosting survey results
The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, also known as the HCAHPS survey, is a way for patients to publicly rate their inpatient experiences at a hospital. As these ratings are released to the public, they impact health care providers’ reputations in the community. Additionally, these survey results account for 25% of a hospital’s value-based purchasing score, which will impact the Medicare payouts a facility receives.
Essentially, higher ratings for this or any public health care survey have the power to improve or destroy rankings, ratings, and reimbursements. To help hospitals boost their survey results, they can enlist the help of CNLs to emphasize patient-centered care and outcomes improvement, discover and analyze key data trends, and improve patient care. Each of these factors directly impacts how patients perceive and rate their hospital experience.
Medical professionals who want to change their hospital’s environment should consider pursuing the online MSN Clinical Nurse Leader program.