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Nurse wellbeing has 'direct impact' on patient care

Levels of satisfaction and wellbeing among NHS staff have a direct impact on patients’ experiences of healthcare, according to a major study by leading UK nurse researchers.  

Investing in staff wellbeing is, therefore, not only important for the nursing workforce but also for quality of care overall, they argue.

The three year study was carried out by the National Nursing Research Unit at King’s College London and Southampton University and aimed to determine which particular staff attitudes and behaviours impacted on patient experiences.

It involved over 200 hours of direct care observation at four trusts – two acute and two in the community – as well as hundreds of interviews and surveys of patients, frontline staff and senior managers.

Glenn Robert, healthcare quality and innovation chair at the NNRU, said the study showed interpersonal relationships with staff were “critical to patient experience”, but the level of such connections was “often poor”.

“Patients want staff to show genuine interest in them as people; to be non-judgemental and competent; continuity of staff enhances levels of trust and the confidence felt by patients that their care needs are fully understood,” he said.

But Professor Robert added: “Staff often reported not being able to deliver the care they wanted to, citing insufficient staffing levels and competing demands on their time as preventing them from delivering the high quality care they wished to give”.

NNRU director and lead study author Jill Maben said the findings were “significant” for proving the importance of staff wellbeing, while acknowledging they might seem obvious to many nurses.

“While it may appear self-evident that patients’ experiences and the quality of health care they receive are influenced by the experiences of the staff providing that care, there was limited UK research that explored this link,” she said.

“This study strongly suggests that patient experiences are better when staff feel they have a good working environment, support from co-workers and their manager and low emotional exhaustion.”

Professor Maben added that the study highlighted the “importance of the team” and the “critical role” of the team leader role in “supporting and nurturing staff and in building a strong climate for patient care”.


Readers' comments (51)

  • Tiger Girl

    '“While it may appear self-evident that patients’ experiences and the quality of health care they receive are influenced by the experiences of the staff providing that care, there was limited UK research that explored this link,” she said.'

    Why on earth cannot we just use a bit of common sense, and put research efforts into looking at things we probably are not already almost certain of - this is another one, where a contrary finding would seem 'inexplicable' !

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  • A three year study to come up with this!!!!

    I could have concluded this study in 3 seconds.

    What a waste of time and money.

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  • It's my experience that it takes little to make a person feel valued. This information could have been gathered for 25% of the cost if, indeed it needed to be done, and the money spent on investing in our nurses e.g funded professional development instead of being told there's no time or money available.

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  • michael stone

    I'm with Tiger Girl on this - concentrate on useful research !

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  • Susan Markham

    Nurse wellbeing has 'direct impact' on patient care?

    Well call me an idiot (and I mostly am) but I could have come to that conclusion thirty years ago without the “three year study that was carried out by the National Nursing Research Unit at King’s College London and Southampton University.”

    How much of a slice of the NHS pie did these numpties get to tell us something that we already knew?

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  • tinkerbell

    well nock me down with a feather! Who'd have thought?

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  • Yeah but in fairness; given the often facile drive for an evidence base, isn't it handy to actually have one that reminds people (managers, accountants, politicians etc) that in order to drive up standards of care they have to actually look after nurses?

    Next time someone wants to cut staff numbers, pay, supervision etc there is a pretty big bit of evidence to point at and say; 'hang on, why are you sabotaging standards of care?'

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  • This is one of the articles that makes the blood boil. In my experience nurses are badly treated, badly paid and dumped on at every opportunity while others get the prizes for pruning the budgets.
    Now to discover that the abuse of willing staff may affect them and how they treat the patients has been a wonderful way to keep the non touch academics in jobs and away from contributing to making improvements in practice and care. Who paid for that?

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  • Tiger Girl

    mark radcliffe | 16-Nov-2012 2:49 pm

    But politicians simply ignore any evidence that doesn't suit their objective !

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  • Mark is right on this but it's a chicken & egg scenario in as much as the while the research is ongoing there are cutbacks on resources, support and nurses, leaving us at a point where the outcomes will have less of an impact. Surely there's some middle ground, shorter research, lower costs and efforts made where they count - with the nurses.

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  • Nick Clegg spoke of the ideal of a "John Lewis economy"ie look after your staff and the staff will deliver for you. Happy staff = happy customers.

    The government are aware of this without the need for expensive research. They choose to ignore it as a model for the Health Service as it would cost too much.

    Why bother when good will and dedication are free.

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  • tinkerbell

    mark radcliffe | 16-Nov-2012 2:49 pm

    Good point, at least now we can point them to this major study and let that be an end to stating the 'bleedin obvious'.

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  • why don't they just believe what we tell them. what a waste of time and money - 3 years is outrageous.

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  • This does seem to be a very obvious conclusion to a lengthy period of study , at what cost to the nhs I wonder. Happy parents =happy children happy nurses = happy patients . Its not rocket science but plain common sense. Come on ladies, drop the granduer and get down on the shop floor .

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  • Did anyone read the research? It's a wide-ranging and comprehensive study which can and should be used as evidence in any case being made to the PTB re: staffing levels, resources, pay, pensions, etc., etc.

    Susan Markham | 16-Nov-2012 11:40 am

    "How much of a slice of the NHS pie did these numpties get to tell us something that we already knew?"

    Research money mostly comes from endowments, academic institutions, charitable contributions and the CSO. It is not taken from frontline care and cannot be used for anything other than research.

    Anonymous | 16-Nov-2012 3:43 pm

    "Who paid for that?"

    Not you.

    Tiger Girl | 16-Nov-2012 3:48 pm

    "But politicians simply ignore any evidence that doesn't suit their objective !"

    That's no excuse not to gather the evidence! Of course the conclusions of this study have been obvious to us for years, but without quantified and qualified evidence, our complaints can and are easily dismissed.

    The problem here is that these people have provided properly researched, good quality evidence and, instead of using it to take the fight to the government, we think that it is more constructive to call the researchers "numpties"!

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 17-Nov-2012 12:58 pm

    While it is logically true that in science having the evidence base counts, Tiger Girl is also correct: politicians simply ignore, or evade, any inconvenient evidence. And getting more NHS staff employed, comes down to politics.

    It is all very frustrating !

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  • DH Agent - as if ! | 17-Nov-2012 1:49 pm

    I did not state that Tiger girl was not correct in her assertion that government chooses to ignore evidence! My point was that this is no reason not to gather it in the first instance. And, of course, evidence and the gathering of it is certainly not the exclusive preserve of science! Neither is the study simply about "..getting more NHS staff employed..."!

    Nurses (and others) who obviously have not bothered to read the research have chosen place the researchers in the firing line for abuse. The National Nursing Research Unit, the only facility of its kind in the UK, produces evidence for the NURSING WORKFORCE to improve the lot for nurses and patients.

    Now, I have nothing against nurses having a moan. God knows, I do it myself and it is good to vent. However, nurses have done, and continue to do, absolutely NOTHING to take on this or any previous government. If they really want to improve their lot and that of their patients, save the NHS or whatever, then attacking those who are handing them the bullets for the gun is completely self-destructive.

    Yes. It is all very frustrating!

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 17-Nov-2012 2:42 pm

    thanks for making your point. Now I agree. If at first glance it seems unnecessary to state the obvious, if you are doing it to prove to the government a case, then i am totally behind anyone who is at least TRYING to do something constructive. I hope it has the effect that is sorely needed. Well done in that case to those involved.

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  • now that the evidence is there what is being done about improving staffing levels, reducing workload and making nurses happier? who is going to have the ba**s to stand up to our critics, and especially the media, and say that we are doing our best so please just leave us alone - you think you can do a better job then come and show us.

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  • Anonymous | 17-Nov-2012 4:02 pm

    What to do with the evidence? Well, that is up to us, is it not?

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