Critical care nurses are constantly challenged to provide safe, high-quality patient care at a low cost with increasingly scarce resources while implementing the latest evidence-based practices into their own clinical practice. This article is the first in a 4-part series to provide a practical quality improvement guide for critical care nurses interested in implementing system process or performance improvement projects within their own units. Part 1 is designed to answer the question “What method is better for measuring real-world patient outcomes—quality improvement or clinical research?” A broad overview of the differences between quality improvement and clinical research is provided. A newly published checklist to differentiate between attributes of each process is introduced, and readers can test their own knowledge between quality improvement and research with a quick quiz of studies recently published in Critical Care Nurse.

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