Nursing Clinical Decision-Making and Active Involvement in Research at Academic Medical Centers

Date: Mar 25, 2021

Nurses have always had to make a lot of decisions. A study published in 2000 showed that critical care nurses made more than 200 decisions per hour. Today, nurses have more responsibility than ever — and more influence on the way care is delivered. Many are involved in education and research to improve the quality of care, patient safety, and other outcomes. At academic medical centers, nurses can follow all these paths — and at Emory Healthcare, nurses are vital and valued team members.

As health information technology has exploded, clinical decision support systems are helping nurses make evidence-based decisions at the bedside. Early systems were primarily created for physicians, but as nursing has evolved, so has the technology, with systems created by and for nurses to support decision-making in their specific settings, environments, and situations. The systems use data drawn from the electronic health record and elsewhere to provide alerts, reminders, and messages with recommended action.

Nurses are also more involved in system-wide governance, with more medical centers adopting a “shared governance” model that includes nurses — and not just their bosses — in setting practices and standards that improve the quality of care or the patient experience. Early research has shown these models can result in improved job satisfaction, patient care, and outcomes.

Leaders on the Front Lines

With four hospitals with Magnet designation, Emory is committed to fostering leadership at all levels of nursing. Often, administrators and even other clinicians may not realize that change is needed or offer feasible and practical answers for nurses. Healthcare systems are increasingly recognizing the value of seeking input from nurses and empowering them to brainstorm ideas and create and apply their solutions.

One example of Emory Healthcare nurses taking charge and rising to a serious challenge is the creation of “warm zones” and a buddy system to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and conserve personal protective equipment (PPE). The nurses in the 5G medical unit and hospice were having to change PPE every time they left “hot zones” (patient rooms where COVID-19 was expected to be), risking cross-contamination. The nurses taped off “warm zones” outside the patient rooms, where clean “buddies” would be waiting to retrieve medications, supplies or equipment. Using this method, the nurses significantly reduced PPE use, saved time, and helped prevent cross-contamination without putting patients at an increased risk.

Shaping the Future Through Research

Nurses at Emory Healthcare are also actively involved in research as scientific team members, caregivers, and patient advocates. With a thriving research program, Emory Healthcare offers nurses opportunities to not only find ways to improve nursing care but also to improve overall care and outcomes for a wide range of diseases and conditions. Our nurses can gain valuable experience meeting requirements for informed consent, educating study participants, shaping the way studies are carried out, and providing hands-on care to ensure participants’ safety and well-being. Emory University’s Office of Nursing Research provides comprehensive support for the development of grant applications, the conduct and management of research projects, and the publication of results. Find out more about nursing research at Emory.

 Partners in Education

The relationship between nursing schools and other educational programs is also evolving as academic medical centers and universities strive to meet the growing demand for highly educated nurses. The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University plays an active role in strategic planning and has robust relationships with other programs, including the College of Medicine. This culture of collaboration and respect carries over into our clinical programs, as many of our nurses, physicians, and other professionals are also faculty members.

Finding Your Path

For nurses who want to provide outstanding patient care while they help shape the future of nursing and care delivery, an academic medical center can provide opportunities, challenges, and options that can help you reach your full potential professionally and build a fulfilling and financially rewarding career.

Find out more about nursing at Emory Healthcare and our Magnet nursing program.

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