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Nurse Experience and Education: Effect on Quality of Care

Blegen, Mary A. PhD, RN; Vaughn, Thomas E. PhD; Goode, Colleen J. PhD, RN, FAAN

Journal of Nursing Administration: January 2001 - Volume 31 - Issue 1 - p 33-39

Objective: To describe the relationships between the quality of patient care and the education and experience of the nurses providing that care.

Background: There is a call for more nurses with baccalaureate degrees and more experienced nurses to work in hospitals. Previous research studies have examined the characteristics, abilities, and work assignments of nurses with and without baccalaureate degrees but have not examined the quality of the patient care delivered. It is generally believed that more experienced nurses provide higher-quality care, but again few studies have actually examined this issue.

Methods: A secondary analysis of data, collected in two previous studies of the relationship between nurse staffing (hours of care, staff mix) and the quality of patient care, was used to determine the relationship between nurses' education and experience and the quality of care provided. The data were collected at the patient care unit level (42 units in study 1 and 39 units in study 2). Quality of care was indicated by lower unit rates of medication errors and patient falls.

Results: Controlling for patient acuity, hours of nursing care, and staff mix, units with more experienced nurses had lower medication errors and lower patient fall rates. These adverse occurrence rates on units with more baccalaureate-prepared nurses were not significantly better.

Mary A. Blegen, PhD, RN, Professor, School of Nursing, University of Colorado Health Science Center, Denver, Colorado,,

Thomas E. Vaughn, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Policy and Management, College of Public Health, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa,

Colleen J. Goode, PhD, RN, FAAN, Vice President of Patient Services and Chief Nursing Officer, University of Colorado Hospital, Denver, Colorado.

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.