Survey of Opinion Leaders Suggests Nurses Should Have More Influence in Healthcare Decision Making

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A survey of more than 1,500 opinion leaders from the healthcare industry, academia and government found that an overwhelming majority of the leaders believe nurses should have more influence in health reform.

The study, conducted by Gallup for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, specifically found that leaders believe nurses should play a larger role in health policy and management, reducing medical errors, increasing the quality of care, promoting wellness, improving efficiency and reducing costs.

This study also found that opinion leaders also view nurses as one of the most trusted sources of health information but see nurses as having less influence on healthcare reform than government, insurance and pharmaceutical executives and others.

"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," Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in the release. "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."

Opinion leaders identified, as major barriers to increased influence for nurses, that nurses are not perceived as important decision makers or revenue generators compared with physicians and do not have a single voice on national issues.

"It is obvious that nurses have the expertise, experience, knowledge and skills necessary to improve healthcare delivery and the health of individuals," Reed V. Tuckson, MD, FACP, executive vice president and chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group, said in the release. "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. 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."

Other key findings from the new Gallup survey include:

• Opinion leaders feel 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 say government officials will have a great deal of influence in health reform in the next five to 10 years, compared to 56 percent for insurance executives, 46 percent for pharmaceutical executives, 46 percent for healthcare executives, 37 percent for physicians, 20 percent for patients and 14 percent for nurses.
• Opinion leaders identified the top barriers to nurses' increased influence and leadership as not being perceived as important decision makers (69 percent) or revenue generators (68 percent) compared with physicians; nurses' focus on primary rather than preventive care (62 percent); and nursing not having a single voice in speaking on national issues (56 percent).

Learn more about the Gallup poll on nurse influence.

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