Nursing care quality and adverse events in US hospitals

J Clin Nurs. 2010 Aug;19(15-16):2185-95. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2010.03250.x.


Aim: To examine the association between nurses' reports of unmet nursing care needs and their reports of patients' receipt of the wrong medication or dose, nosocomial infections and patient falls with injury in hospitals.

Background: Because nursing activities are often difficult to measure, and data are typically not collected by health care organisations, there are few studies that have addressed the association between nursing activities and patient outcomes.

Design: Secondary analysis of cross-sectional data collected in 1999 from 10,184 staff nurses and 168 acute care hospitals in the US.

Methods: Multivariate linear regression models estimated the effect of unmet nursing care needs on adverse events given the influence of patient factors and the care environment.

Results: The proportion of necessary nursing care left undone ranged from 26% for preparing patients and families for discharge to as high as 74% for developing or updating nursing care plans. A majority of nurses reported that patients received the wrong medication or dose, acquired nosocomial infections, or had a fall with injury infrequently. However, nurses who reported that these adverse events occurred frequently varied considerably [i.e. medication errors (15%), patient falls with injury (20%), nosocomial infection (31%)]. After adjusting for patient factors and the care environment, there remained a significant association between unmet nursing care needs and each adverse event.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that attention to optimising patient care delivery could result in a reduction in the occurrence of adverse events in hospitals.

Relevance to clinical practice: The occurrence of adverse events may be mitigated when nurses complete care activities that require them to spend time with their patients. Hospitals should engage staff nurses in the creation of policies that influence human resources management to enhance their awareness of the care environment and patient care delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / standards*
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • United States