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Objectives: The authors determine the importance that patients, nurses, and nurse managers place on aspects of care and measure nurses' care values based on their perceptions of their patients and nurse manager care values and their desire to meet these care expectations.


Background: The literature has documented gaps in how nurses and patients define quality and value specific care aspects, but little is known about the situation in the current continuous quality improvement and patient-centered care environment, which emphasizes a customer focus. Misunderstanding patients' values and expectations may impede service improvement. Information about any existing gaps could help managers begin to devise patient satisfaction improvement strategies.


Method: Two thousand fifty-one medical-surgical patients, 1264 staff members, and 97 nurse managers from 17 randomly selected hospitals participated in study activities related to selected aspects of patient care. Trained interviewers surveyed patients by telephone within 26 days of discharge using a pretested instrument. Staff members and managers completed a coordinated written tool. Descriptive and correlational statistics were used in individual and unit-level analyses.


Results: Staff members perceive correctly that patients value differently various aspects of care but do not agree with their managers on patients' values of aspects of care. Unit staff members' and managers' beliefs regarding patients' care values did not match those of their patients (-14 to 0.11 and -0.01 to 0.06 zero order correlations, respectively).


Conclusions: A unit's errors in defining patients' values may be self-reinforcing. Strategies to reorient personnel, including adoption of those suggested by the diffusion of innovation literature, may help bridge the gap and change practice.