Linda Aiken: A “Giant” in Nursing Innovation
Today, it’s no surprise to say that hospital organizational structures and nursing work environments influence patient outcomes. Many of the nation’s top hospitals continue to improve by bettering staffing ratios, including nurse leaders on their boards, and hiring a larger percentage of BSN-prepared nurses. But none of this would be common knowledge without the tireless work of Linda Aiken, PhD, RN, FAAN, The Claire M. Fagin Leadership Professor in Nursing, Director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research (CHOPR), and LDI Senior Fellow. Dr. Aiken’s research has pioneered the evidence showing the importance of better work environments on improving patient safety, nursing practice, and health policy.
Among her more than 200 publications, Aiken demonstrated an increase in 30-day mortality after common surgical procedures by a whopping seven percent for each additional patient added to a nurse’s workload. Her team found that, amongst in-hospital cardiac arrest patients, every patient added to a nurse’s workload is associated with a 5% lower likelihood of surviving to discharge, and a poor work environment was associated with a 16% lower likelihood. And for over two decades, she has shown that higher percentages of BSN-prepared nurses lead to lower mortality rates and better patient outcomes.
While her work has had national policy impacts on mandated nurse-to-patient ratios and BSN nurse requirements, Aiken’s research has reached around the globe. Her work influenced Wales, Ireland, and parts of Australia to adopt safe nurse staffing mandates. Her RN4CAST project, which she developed as director and founder of CHOPR, is the largest study of its kind on nursing care and patient outcomes in the United States, Europe, Asia, South Africa, Australia, and Chile. And perhaps most impressively, her research is reflected in the National Academy of Medicine’s 2010 recommendation that 80 percent of U.S nurses have a bachelor’s degree by 2020, and the European Parliament’s 2013 decision to recommend university education for nurses in the European Union.
Linda Aiken has received many honors over the course of her career. She is a recipient of the 2014 Gustav O. Lienhard Award for health care services from the National Academy of Medicine, the 2013 Consortium of Universities for Global Health Project of the Year Award, and the 2005 AcademyHealth Distinguished Investigator Award, among many others. In May 2017, she received the International Council of Nurses’ 2017 Christiane Reimann Prize – the organization’s most prestigious award. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a former president of the American Academy of Nursing. She continues to lead a nursing career rooted in inquiry, innovation, and discovery.