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Nancy E. Dunton, PhD, FAAN

Nancy Dunton portrait
Research Professor, School Of Nursing

Professional Background

Dr. Dunton has 20 years of experience in health services research with a focus on the contributions of nursing to healthcare quality. She is an expert at developing quality measures and the collection of standardized data. She was the site Principal Investigator (PI) on a project funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that developed outcome measures for the Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, for use in CMS’ value-based purchasing program. Under contract to the American Nurses Association, she was the PI of the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators® (NDNQI), guiding its growth and development between 1998 and 2014. NDNQI performance reports are based on rigorously standardized data submitted by 2,000 hospitals and used in their quality improvement initiatives. NDNQI data are also used by our team and other NIH-funded researchers for studies of nursing care quality and the nursing work environment. NDNQI is highly regarded by researchers for its exacting data specifications, rigorous data collection protocols, and the reliability and validity of its measures. Dr. Dunton continues to conduct research and measure development for NDNQI.

Education and Training
  • BA, Sociology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
  • MS, Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
  • PhD, Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Professional Affiliations
  • Midwest Nursing Research Society, Research Interest Group on Health Systems, Policy and Informatics, Member, 2020 - 2021
  • University of Kansas Medical Center, Information Resources, Member, 2019 - 2021
  • University of Kansas School of Nursing, Senior Leadership, Member, 2019 - Present
  • University of Kansas School of Nursing, Strategic Planning Research Committee, Member, 2018 - 2019
  • University of Kansas School of Nursing , PhD Health Services Research Curriculum Committee , Member, 2017 - 2019
  • National Human Genome Institute & National Cancer Institute , Quality Indicators Advisory Panel National Member , Member, 2016 - 2016
  • University of Kansas Medical Center, Conflict of Interest, Member, 2016 - 2022



Dr. Dunton's most significant contribution to science has been the rigorous development and implementation of a standardized healthcare quality database. This has included quality measure development and testing, providing technical assistance on using documentation of health care to extract required data elements, and developing quality dashboards to support quality improvement initiatives in acute care. Four measures have been endorsed and re-endorsed by the National Quality Forum as national standards.

Dr. Dunton's most important contribution to science has been health services research publications and presentations. Prior to the availability of NDNQI data for research, most research on the quality of nursing care was conducted in a single setting or on small convenience samples. For 15 years, she lead and participated on interdisciplinary teams that have used NDNQI’s large datasets to produce a broad body of research relating characteristics of the nursing workforce and the nursing work environment to patient and nurse outcomes. This body of research demonstrates that the contributions of nurses to safe patient outcomes go beyond staffing levels and include nursing workforce characteristics, such as education level and years of experience; and nursing processes, such as risk assessment and the implementation of prevention protocols. Recent publications have also demonstrated that the nursing work environment also has a significant effect on patient outcomes. Based on this body of work, hospitals now have several pathways to improving patient care.

To improve the quality of care in hospitals, peer reviewed research based on NDNQI data must be reframed and disseminated to the nursing leadership in hospitals, quality improvement nurses, and bedside RNs. Dr. Dunton and her NDNQI colleagues have made hundreds of presentations to clinical nurses and hospital-based nurse leaders. Additionally, she has published articles in journals read by clinical nurses and was a co-editor of four monographs comprised of case studies of sustained quality improvement. Two of these monographs were national, award-winning publications.

  • Staggs, Vincent, Turner, K, Potter, Catima, Cramer, Emily, Dunton, Nancy, Mion, Lorraine, Shorr, Ron. 2021. Unit-level variation in bed alarm use in U.S. hospitals. Research and Nursing in Health
  • Dunton, Nancy, Olds, Danielle. 2020. The benefits of data science for nurses
  • Baernholdt, Marianne, Yan, Gaofun, Hinton, Ivora, Cramer, Emily, Dunton, Nancy. 2020. Effect of preventive care interventions on pressure ulcer rates in a national sample of rural and urban nursing units: Longitudinal associations over 4 years.. International Journal of Nursing Studies
  • Dunton, Nancy, Fisher, Amenda. 2020. Organizational Outcomes: Financial and Quality Measures, 239-255
  • Zhao, Y., L, Bott, M, He, J, Kim, H, Park, SH, N, Dunton. 2019. Evidence on Fall and Injurious Fall Prevention Interventions in Acute Care Hospitals. Journal of Nursing Administration, 49 (2), 86-92
  • Zhao, Y., L, Bott, M, He, J, Kim, H, Park, S., H, Dunton, N. 2018. Multilevel Factors Associated With Injurious Falls in Acute Care Hospitals.. Journal of nursing care quality, 33 (1), 20-28
  • Beck, S., Dunton, N., Berry, P., Brandt, J., Guo, J., Potter, C., Spornitz, B., Eaton, J., Wong, B. 2018. Dissemination and implementation of Patient-Centered Indicators of Pain Care Quality and Outcomes. Medical Care, 57 (2), 159-166
  • Baernholdt, M, Hinton, I., D, Yan, G, Xin, W, Cramer, E, Dunton, N. 2018. Fall Rates in Urban and Rural Nursing Units: Does Location Matter?. Journal of nursing care quality
  • Baernholdt, M, Dunton, N, Hughes, R., G, Stone, P., W, White, K., M. 2018. Quality Measures: A Stakeholder Analysis.. Journal of nursing care quality, 33 (2), 149-156
  • Baernholdt, M, Hinton, I., D, Yan, G, Xin, W, Cramer, E, Dunton, N. 2017. A National Comparison of Rural/Urban Pressure Ulcer and Fall Rates. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 22 (2)