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What Is Quality of Care?

Written by: North Carolina Central University   •  Jun 17, 2024

A nurse handing a patient a form on a clipboard.

What Is Quality of Care?

Nations around the world are striving to achieve better patient outcomes in health care. The aim is healthier lives and fewer preventable deaths. In fact, according to the United Nations, one of their sustainable development goals is to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” In the United States, goals like this one are underscored through high levels of resources and education in the medical field. These factors make our health care industry robust, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Health care organizations, government agencies, and public health departments consider the quality of the care provided to patients as key when it comes to improving patient outcomes. They encourage breaking down patient care into manageable parts to examine it closely, implementing changes to improve care quality systemically, and doing quality measurements through data collection and analysis. 

Nurses are on the ground every day in health care facilities, so they can impact the quality of care like no one else can. That’s why nursing programs that focus on quality care can help this generation of nurses make positive changes in patient outcomes.

The Importance of Quality Measurement in Health Care

In order to improve the quality of care, facilities must first measure the quality of the health care currently being provided. They need to determine if the steps they take are effective, safe, and patient-focused. Health organizations such as the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services have put forth quality measures that consider many different metrics of care including outcomes, processes, and patient perceptions, to effectively measure quality of care. Health care professionals can also increase quality of care on the individual level or facility level. 

Before providing care, they can pose questions such as:

  • Is there a high likelihood that this treatment will work?
  • Do we expect this treatment to do more good than harm?
  • Is this treatment focused on the patient’s needs and wishes before all else?

Beyond the care provided to any one patient, health care professionals and the facilities they work in can look at care delivery on a broader scale. They can zoom out to see how everything is working together to strive for more efficient, equitable, and integrated care for patients.

What does that look like in practice?

  • Efficient care means the patient doesn’t have long wait times and that medical and personnel resources are used wisely.
  • Equitable care means that each patient, regardless of their race, gender, or other demographic marker, has the same access to quality care.
  • Integrated care means that the patient’s health care teams and organizations coordinate and communicate with one another so that the patient isn’t left handling a mile-long list of things to do.

Why Does Quality Care Matter?

Quality care is care that puts the patient’s needs first and meets the highest standards when it comes to diagnosing, treating, and educating patients. In a health care facility that does not prioritize high-quality care, patients might struggle with an undiagnosed disease, be prescribed medicine that interacts poorly with another medication they are taking, or remain uninformed about treatment options that are available to them.

Instead, in a health care facility that consistently delivers high-quality care, patients are effectively diagnosed, safely and carefully treated, and well-informed about the state of their health. High-quality care makes all the difference for patients. 

How Nurses Can Help Ensure Quality Care for Patients

Nurses are on the front lines of delivering health care to patients. This positions them to uniquely advance quality care in the following ways:

  • Seeking roles at health care organizations that prioritize quality care
  • Advocating for patients within their organization for improved, patient-centric care
  • Finding professional development and education opportunities that help them improve the level of care they provide to patients

Working nurses manage a lot. Many find that they make a valuable impact on the lives and health of their patients, but they also experience moments of frustration with the larger system. Seeking professional development, like the next level of education or working to become a nurse leader, can allow nurses to impact the system and their patients positively.

Nursing Skills to Improve Quality of Care

Delivering quality care goes beyond having clinical knowledge, though that plays a big part. It also includes meeting each patient where they are — speaking in a way they understand, listening to their concerns, and acting as an informed partner who has their best interests at heart. Nurses and other health care professionals can aim for certain ideals to bring this style of care to fruition. They include:

  • Cultural competence: Understanding patients’ wide variety of identities, backgrounds, lived experiences, and cultural sensitivities, and respecting how they may affect the patients’ care strategy and delivery
  • Inclusivity and equity: Ensuring that each patient has the same access to high-quality care, no matter their background, identity, or socioeconomic status
  • Quality measurement**:** Approaching a career in health care as a practice of improving care for patients over time, with measurements, analysis, and collaboration with team members in place to drive that improvement

Elevate Your Nursing Career With NCCU’s Online RN to BSN Program

You’re already a registered nurse making an impact in health care. Elevate that impact by enrolling in NCCU Online’s RN to BSN program, where you can hone the skills at the forefront of quality care. Learn how to integrate cultural competence, inclusivity, and equity into your practice, and take your clinical knowledge to the next level. With a BSN, you can drive progress in health care by delivering the best patient care possible and, if you choose, leading nursing teams.

Improve the quality of the care you provide by earning an RN to BSN degree at NCCU Online.

Recommended Readings

How Diversity in Nursing Supports Patient Health

Nurse Manager Salary and Job Description

What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?


American Nurses Association, “How Nurses Can Affect Positive Patient Outcomes”

American Nurses Association, “Ways Nurses Can Improve Patient Care”

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Quality Measures

Elation, “What Exactly Does Quality Mean in the Healthcare Context?”

United Nations, “3: Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well-Being for All at All Ages”

World Health Organization, Quality of Care

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