NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Director’s Lecture

Stone Discusses Infection Control Research

Dr. Stone smiles at the podium.
Dr. Patricia Stone

Photo:  Marleen Van Den Neste

Dr. Patricia Stone recently presented the final NINR Director’s Lecture of 2019. In her talk “Informing Health Policy Through Science to Improve Healthcare for Older Adults,” she discussed the trajectory of her research career in health outcomes with a focus on infection control among older adults.

“I was convinced that nursing mattered in quality outcomes,” said Stone, describing her motivation to pursue a research career after more than 15 years in clinical nursing, including working as an adult nurse practitioner.

She began her research in infection prevention following the publication of the National Academies’ (then the Institute of Medicine) report To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System on preventable medical errors.

According to the report, every year nearly 100,000 patient deaths were linked to or caused by preventable errors. Issues such as severe nursing shortages, an aging workforce, increased demand for services and poor working conditions resulted in difficulty recruiting and retaining qualified nurses, which in turn contributed to these errors.

In her first R01 research grant, Stone examined the relationship between nurses’ working conditions and Magnet hospital certification. She discovered that increased nurse staffing was related to patient safety outcomes, or more plainly, “What’s safe for the patient and safe for the nurse is also good for the system.”

Following this first study, Stone continued her infection prevention research, including exploring the impact of mandatory reporting of hospital-acquired infections and qualitative research on practices in infection-control departments.

She then began studying infection control in nursing homes, including the integration of infection control and palliative care at end of life, as well as infection control in home health care.

Stone noted the policy implications of her work, which has influenced federally mandated reporting of hospital infections and CMS final rule 483, which requires nursing homes to employ a specialist in infection prevention.

She encouraged those interested in research to start small, ask important questions, learn from mistakes and build upon successes. Most importantly, she emphasized the need for researchers to always be thinking about how their results will affect patient outcomes.

Stone is the Centennial professor in health policy at Columbia University School of Nursing. Her lecture is available at

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