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AIDS Research Projects Launch the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research

January 1, 1988 | Dr. Linda H. Aiken came to the University of Pennsylvania from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation where she served as Vice President. As one of the first Trustee Professors to join the School of Nursing, she began immediately to use the research fundng component of the professorship.

Dr. Aiken was interested in studying the AIDS epidemic as a natural experiment in which nurses were granted unusual autonomy to design and lead patient-focused dedicated AIDS units in hospitals in the AIDS epicenters.

In May of 1988, the Pennsylvania Gazette featured Aiken’s early research in a special report “AIDS: A Stranger In Our House.” For Dr. Aiken and her colleagues, it was an opportunity to determine the impact of nurse autonomy on patient outcomes by comparisons with standard medical units that had long suffered from nurse job dissatisfaction, burnout, and turnover.


Linda Aiken, a professor of nursing observes that people with AIDS require a continuum of care of services not consistent with the way health care is presently organized in the United States.” The Pennsylvania Gazette, May 1988

Eileen T. LakeEileen T. LakeWithin a year of coming to the University of Pennsylvania, Aiken recruited Eileen Lake as a Research Associate. Dr. Herbert Smith from Sociology joined the collaboration, and together they submitted their first NIH grant application, “AIDS Care: Nurse Recruitment and Patient Satisfaction,” which involved primary data collection from 20 hospitals nationally. A year or so later, Dr. Douglas Sloane joined the CHOPR investigative team. The group surveyed 826 nurses and interviewed patients. “Additionally we undertook abstracts of all the patients’ charts. In response to a call for proposals from NIH to study HIV prevention in developing countries, we were awarded a R01 to study the role of nurses in HIV prevention in Chile. Additionally we won an R01 on factors associated with needlestick injuries to nurses.”

These major research projects propelled CHOPR into reality, and, as Dr. Lake explains,

“established our trajectory of researching hospital organization through surveys of nurses, and showing that patient outcomes are better in nursing units with greater nurse autonomy.”

Follow this link to read the relevant scientific papers.