Challenging assumptions and myths

Campaign brochure published by National Nurses United highlighting the importance of ratios.
Campaign brochure published by National Nurses United highlighting the importance of ratios.

Professor Linda Aiken is one of America’s most influential healthcare professionals.

“Her work blows away many of the assumptions and often challenges the myths that we know,” Queensland’s chief nurse Dr Frances Hughes said when introducing Dr Aiken to the Keeping Patients Safe symposium.

Dr Aiken recently won the US Institute of Medicine’s 2014 Gustav O. Lienhard Award – never before received in the field of nursing. The award has been likened to the medical research equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

The award recognises her research “documenting that nurses’ education, patient workloads, and work environment are associated with patient outcomes, as well as her work to translate those findings into practice and policy in the US and other nations.”

Dr Aiken is the director of the US Centre for Health Outcomes and Policy Research and professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania.

A clinical nurse specialist in cardiac surgery, she has received a total of 53 national and international awards and five honorary doctorates in the past 23 years.

She told a US magazine that, before she even had her first clinical job in nursing, she saw the “disconnect between what nurses wanted to do and what was possible in a hospital organisation.”

And so for her an ongoing question has been: “How is the care in hospitals facilitated or compromised” by institutional structures?