Feature Story | 6-Dec-2022

Matthew D. McHugh, PhD, to receive the 17th Claire M. Fagin Distinguished Researcher Award

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

PHILADELPHIA (December 6, 2022) – The biennial award honors the best scholarly qualities that Dr. Fagin, the School’s third Dean, exemplified. It is given to a Penn Nursing faculty member, or a graduate from the School’s doctoral program, who has made a distinguished contribution to nursing scholarship.  Matthew D. McHugh, PhD, JD, MPH, RN, CRNP, FAAN, The Independence Chair for Nursing Education, Professor of Nursing, and Director of the School’s Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, is a stellar nurse scientist with national and international stature and impact. He is renowned for his program of research that addresses critical problems that affect the nursing profession and enhances health system quality. The award presentation will be on April 13, 2023.

McHugh’s impactful program of research has demonstrated in large-scale studies that almost all policy mandated healthcare quality performance measures are associated with nursing care and nurse resources. His work with multiple populations and health systems shows that a broad range of patient outcomes are better in institutions where nurses care for fewer patients, where a higher proportion of nurses have bachelor’s degrees, and where the quality of the nurse work environment is supportive of professional nursing practice. His research shows that nursing care is a major driver in improving patient satisfaction, reducing hospital mortality and failure-to-rescue rates, readmissions, poor glycemic control and other adverse outcomes, and high cost-low value care including excessive ICU use. Cumulative knowledge from his research makes a convincing case that treating nursing as a soft target for cost reductions actually increases rather than decreases costs due to expensive adverse outcomes. McHugh’s research on Magnet® recognized hospitals has increased adoption of Magnet best practices in U.S. and abroad. His research evaluating outcomes of health system redesign shows that replicating the structure of successful integrated systems often fails to translate into better outcomes if not accompanied by investments in nurses and nurse-led interventions. McHugh has demonstrated causal linkages between improvements in nurse staffing and improved patient outcomes by using natural experiments like legislation mandating safe nurse staffing levels, and this work has been a catalyst for more recent legislation around nurse staffing.

As recognition of the impact of his work, a selection of McHugh’s accolades include election as a Fellow of the National Academy of Medicine (2020), American Academy of Nursing (2012), a Fulbright Scholar (2001), and a Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Faculty Scholar (2011-14). He has received top awards and recognition for his publications such as the top 10 papers for Health Affairs (2013 & 2011) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation top 5 most influential research articles (2011). He has led six NIH-funded R01 grants over the last 10 years and served as co-investigator on four other R01s. He has been funded in excess of $70 million for his research and published over 100 papers in high-profile, peer reviewed journals such as Health Affairs, The Lancet, The Lancet Global Health, Medical Care, and JAMA Surgery.

McHugh’s leadership is evident in his role as the sole representative for nursing on various prestigious quality committees. Examples include membership on a National Quality Forum (NQF) committee, as an invited expert on the Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Score Blue Ribbon Expert Panel, and service on multiple committees and high-profile panels for the National Academy of Medicine, including as a speaker on the topic of patient safety at the prestigious annual Rosenthal Lecture. He was also appointed by the Governor of Pennsylvania to serve on the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4), an independent state agency formed by statute to use data to inform policy and ensure high-quality, cost-effective care for all Pennsylvanians. He also serves on the American Academy of Nursing’s Building Health System Excellence Quality Expert Panel and speaks to audiences across the world (keynotes in Dubai, Australia, Belgium, Ireland, Singapore). Furthermore, McHugh’s research on nurse staffing and patient outcomes is having an impact as more jurisdictions adopt legislation and regulations requiring safe nurse staffing. Examples of policy changes that have cited his research include adoption of mandatory reporting of nurse staffing in New Jersey, minimum ICU nurse-to-patient ratio legislation in Massachusetts, and the adoption of minimum nurse staffing ratios in Wales, Ireland, and Queensland, Australia. McHugh completed his BSN at Gwynedd-Mercy University, PhD at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, MPH at the Harvard School of Public Health, and JD from the Northeastern University School of Law.

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About the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing is one of the world’s leading schools of nursing. For the seventh year in a row, it is ranked the #1 nursing school in the world by QS University. In a first for any undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program in the country, our BSN program is ranked # 1 in the 2022 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges rankings. Penn Nursing is also consistently ranked highly in the U.S. News & World Report annual list of best graduate schools and is ranked as one of the top schools of nursing in funding from the National Institutes of Health. Penn Nursing prepares nurse scientists and nurse leaders to meet the health needs of a global society through innovation in research, education, and practice. Follow Penn Nursing on: FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, & Instagram.  

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