Rationale and aim There is a lack of evidence that nursing care plans affect patient outcomes. The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether documented nursing care plans affect patient outcomes by the use of nursing-sensitive outcome indicators.
Method A retrospective, cross-sectional design with patients surveyed at time of discharge from two hospital units for patients with stroke and after 2–3 weeks at home. The control unit (A) did not employ care plans. The intervention unit (B) used care plans on a daily basis. Outcome was measured by ‘the National Stroke Register’ and the two questionnaires: ‘Quality of patients' perspective’ and ‘Euroquol five dimensions’. Data were collected over a 5-month period (October 2007–February 2008).
Results In total, 87 patients were included in the study. Patient characteristics in the two groups at admission and the health-related quality of life 2 to 3 weeks after discharge were similar. The patients from unit B were more satisfied with individual care (P = 0.03) and participation (P = 0.007). Unit B also had a shorter length of stay (P = 0.004).
Conclusions The effects of documented care plans are difficult to evaluate from a patient perspective, as many factors can improve the outcome. However, documentation of care plans is a prerequisite for measuring the quality and outcome of the care provided. This small study indicates that documented care plans may affect patient satisfaction regarding individual care, participation and length of hospital stay.