Nurse researcher says new technology, better leadership necessary to improve nursing home care

As an aging, higher-acuity population is anticipated to enter U.S. nursing homes at an increasing rate, one researcher argues that new technologies—and the enhanced leadership skills needed to implement facility-wide changes—will become necessities to improving resident care.

Amy Vogelsmeier, assistant professor at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing, found that nursing home leadership is critical to supporting open communication, relationship building and generating better safety practices and new technology adoption in these facilities.

“Although technology plays a role in improving resident safety, technology alone isn’t the answer,” Vogelsmeier said. “It will take strong leadership within organizations to implement technological systems in ways that will enhance patient safety rather than hinder it.”

Vogelsmeier analyzed data from an intervention study of nursing homes that implemented electronic medication systems and focused quality improvement efforts to enhance medication safety practices. She then compared how nurse leaders from the highest- and lowest-performing nursing homes differed in their communication and teamwork strategies.

The nurse leader from the highest-performing nursing home encouraged team members to share their perspectives and ideas for solving problems. Leaders provided accurate and timely feedback, which motivated team members to work together and establish common goals.

As input and feedback occurred, improvement in the nursing home occurred, according to Vogelsmeier. In contrast, the nurse leader from the lowest-performing home did not value the team’s opinions, resulting in disengagement and lack of improvement in the nursing home.

The study, “Achieving Quality Improvement in the Nursing Home: Influence of Nursing Leadership on Communication and Teamwork,” was published in September in the Journal of Nursing Care Quality and was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

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