As frontline healthcare providers, nurses take leading roles in patient education and satisfaction—collectively known as the patient experience—to ultimately improve health outcomes and lower hospital readmissions.
Since the rise of healthcare consumerism, the patient experience is continuing to shape the future of healthcare and change the ways medical facilities are operating. After the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented a national standard for measuring patient satisfaction and tied it directly to reimbursement, the patient experience has become a priority.
Despite the multiple interactions patients have with a variety of healthcare workers during hospital stays, registered nurses (RNs) remain at the forefront of the patient experience. Nurse engagement—a measure of a nurse’s commitment to their patients and employers—is vital to patient experience outcomes, researchers found.
For RNs who are interested in earning Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees, understanding the importance of nurse engagement and the patient experience is vital to the future of healthcare.
“Nurse engagement and patient experience are not ‘nice to haves,’ nor are they considerations to address ‘when we have time.’ As the data and research have demonstrated, nurse engagement is critical to the patient experience, clinical quality, and patient outcomes,” nurse researchers Christina Dempsey and Barbara A. Reilly said in The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing.
Nurses and Patient Education
Experts agree patient education is one of the most important components of nurse engagement.
Healthcare has increasingly asked patients to be more self-sufficient, expanding the need for precise directions from providers. At the same time, studies show the implementation of patient education is lacking. The problems that impact nurses’ abilities to educate patients include work overload, a lack of communication techniques, insufficient skills, and a general lack of systemic support.
One of the primary goals of patient education is to decrease hospital readmission rates, particularly since federal CMS penalties are tied to early readmissions. Nurses are advised to improve patient education before hospital discharge to achieve the goals of lower re-hospitalizations.
Experts advise that discharge planning should begin when patients are admitted and continue through the course of the stay. Other tips for RNs to advance patient education include the following:
- Delegate responsibilities to support staff and focus on patient education.
- Learn what the patient already knows and dispel misinformation.
- Provide patient information in the simplest way possible, using visual aids when applicable.
- Ask patients and family members to learn important medical information or steps to treatment.
- Question the patient’s understanding of the care and its necessity.
- Make sure patients understand the importance of all medications and how and why to refill them properly.
- Involve patients from the very first treatment to reinforce learning.
- Educate patients and family members about the signs and symptoms that indicate a worsening condition.
Patient education also goes beyond hospital stays to patient outreach, or post-hospitalization contact, to improve healthy outcomes.
Patient education, however, does not exist independently of other factors in the patient experience and nurse engagement. Instead, patient education goes hand-in-hand with patient satisfaction. Together, patient education and patient satisfaction create the patient experience—a component of healthcare that has put increased pressure on RNs.
Nurses and Patient Satisfaction
In the past, healthcare providers paid little attention to patient satisfaction, utilizing a “plenty more where they came from” attitude and dismissing patient satisfaction as worthy of “neither practical nor theoretical interest,” the Encyclopedia of Health Services Research said.
Fast-forward some fifty years and patient satisfaction is regarded as a critical component of healthcare. Patients are no longer an unlimited resource.
“The informed consumer, who through an information explosion propelled by scientific and technological advances, mass media coverage, and the Internet, better understands treatment options [and] is not afraid to challenge healthcare providers if the care does not meet his or her standards,” the Encyclopedia of Health Services Research said.
Patient satisfaction is important for many reasons, including the following:
- Patients are demanding fully integrated healthcare systems that work cooperatively and feel disconnected from siloed healthcare.
- Satisfied patients will return for follow-up visits and file fewer lawsuits.
- Patients who are satisfied tend to view their healthcare as positive even if the results were not positive.
Press Ganey, regarded as the leader in patient-experience measurements, found RNs are critical to improved patient satisfaction, which is a key component of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS or H-Caps) survey. CMS uses HCAHPS as a tool in reimbursement equations. In other words, hospitals have a financial incentive to improve patient satisfaction scores, prevent adverse events, and provide for positive outcomes.
Nursing and the Patient Experience
These positive outcomes are even more important when put into the framework of the future of nurse education. Nearly a decade ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called for 80 percent of the nursing workforce to have BSNs by 2020 as a way to improve nurses’ roles in improving healthcare nationwide.
RNs are heeding the call by earning BSN degrees to improve the patient experience and benefit their careers. At Duquesne University, RNs have the added advantage of earning a BSN online, allowing them to continue to work while furthering their nursing education.
About Duquesne University’s Online RN-BSN Degree Program
Duquesne University’s RN to BSN program provides RNs with the advanced education a growing number of healthcare providers are demanding. The program highlights vital information in nursing, including patient education, patient satisfaction, and the patient experience.
U.S. News & World Report has repeatedly ranked Duquesne University among the top 100 schools of nursing nationwide. Learn more about Duquesne University’s online RN to BSN program.