Happy Nurses = Satisfied Patients

In a value-based setting, where quality of care metrics influence financial incentives, patient satisfaction has become a top priority at health systems across the country. Often measured based on survey scores (HCAHPS), patient satisfaction can have a direct impact on the bottom line. As such, achieving high marks has become a focus for health systems everywhere. According to a 2014 HealthLeaders survey, more than half of healthcare executives say patient experience and satisfaction is one of their top three priorities.1

As healthcare workers who work most closely with patients, nurses are healthcare providers’ biggest strength in achieving positive patient satisfaction. However, this critical group is facing the most shortage in available staff, high dropout rates and the lowest satisfaction among hospital employees. Why?

Nursing is tough. Working closely with sick patients, worried families and stressed doctors can take its toll, and nurses juggle it all. They work long hours, often starting a shift when it is dark and leaving when it is dark again. Nurses also spend the majority of their shift on their feet and are expected to lift heavy loads. Eight in 10 nurses say muscle and joint pain is a frequent occurrence2 and some nurses even experience compassion fatigue. A form of burnout that can affect people who work in the healthcare industry, compassion fatigue can have a negative impact on the quality of care a nurse delivers. Dissatisfaction with work schedules feeling overworked, and lack of independence are other factors that play a role in creating an unhappy workforce.

It doesn’t take much to see that nurse satisfaction is tightly linked to patient satisfaction. Happier nurses make fewer mistakes and produce better overall outcomes. In the New York Times Bestselling book “Patients Come Second,” the authors point out that patients are customers looking for an exceptional experience that balances cost, quality and service, and it will be the employees that deliver on those expectations.

Patients today have a greater choice where they spend their health care dollars, which means hospitals have to compete for business with their peers. The hospitals that have made it a priority to invest in the workforce will come out on top. For every 10% of nurses who report dissatisfaction with their job, patient recommendations to that hospital decrease by 2%.3

Technology can lead the way in creating an employee-focused workplace. By implementing systems that support a positive work environment, including self-scheduling, improved productivity, and data-driven staffing, organizations can help improve employee satisfaction. This will ultimately lead to better patient outcomes and greater HCAHPS scores, which translates into greater reimbursement incentives.

When hospitals and nurses work together to leverage their biggest strength – their nurses – bridging the gap on patient satisfaction is much easier to accomplish.


1Rice, Chelsea. “5 Ways to Raise HCAHPS Scores via Staff Engagement.” HealthLeaders Media Insider, November 2014

2Nursing World. “2011 ANA Health & Safety Survey Hazards of the RN Work Environment.” Accessed May 13, 2015. http://nursingworld.org/FunctionalMenuCategories/MediaResources/MediaBackgrounders/The-Nurse-Work-Environment-2011-Health-Safety-Survey.pdf

3Health Affairs “Nurses’ Widespread Job Dissatisfaction, Burnout, & Frustration with Health Benefits Signal Problems for Patient Care.”


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