Improved documentation of medical errors over the past several years has inspired tough new standards for health care reimbursement—and added urgency to the ongoing quest to improve patient safety around the nation.

The recently launched Patient Safety Group, a collaboration between the School of Nursing and Health Studies and University of Miami Hospital, will nurture patient-safetyoriented studies designed to advance nursing  knowledge and improve patient outcomes. “We have an opportunity to do important work together that will benefit both the school and the hospital,” says Denise Korniewicz, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior associate dean for research and director of  the initiative.

“Our two organizations have a strong commitment to working together to implement evidence-based research to improve nursing care delivery,” says David Zambrana, MBA, RN, chief nursing officer at University of Miami Hospital.

In addition to enhancing patient outcomes and improving hospital care, Zambrana points out that such efforts yield rich learning opportunities: “Nursing students are our future nurses. It’s our job to provide access to all the learning experiences that we offer.” Zambrana’s commitment to nursing education has a personal component: He is a member of the first cohort of the school’s recently launched Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

Opportunities for improvements in patient safety are legion, says Korniewicz: “They range from ways to  increase compliance with hand hygiene procedures to new technologies that prevent medication errors, pressure ulcers, and even falls among patients.”

“As technologies grow more complex and pressures to move patients through the system intensify, the problem grows exponentially,” Zambrana says. “Making sure we have the right patient at the right time for the right procedure involves elements including team communication, patient identification, and patient education and empowerment.”

Even research projects that focus on seemingly straightforward low-tech interventions are extremely time intensive. “It takes a long time to develop a study design and evaluate the outcomes,” Korniewicz says. “We need to account for faculty time.”

Group members have submitted research proposals for projects ranging in duration from one to three years to professional organizations, foundations, and the National Institutes of Health. The national stimulus plan, which allocates dollars to patient safety initiatives, is another potential funding source.

According to Zambrana, University of Miami Hospital itself will likely underwrite some of the group’s initiatives, such as a study to demonstrate the effectiveness of the hospital’s nurse-based vascular access program for patients who require intravenous medication after discharge.

“An important angle is that nursing is usually thought of as a cost anchor because we don’t generate revenue,” Zambrana observes. “We’re in an excellent position to demonstrate that advanced practice nurses working with evidence-based research can positively impact both outcomes and the bottom line.”