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The main aim of this study was to improve the quality of nursing care for older acutely ill hospitalized medical patients through developing, implementing and evaluating a new model of care using a participatory action research process.One of the challenges of nursing today is to meet the health-care needs of the growing older population. It is important to consider what quality of nursing care means to older patients if nurses are to address gaps between their own perceptions and those of older patients themselves and to consider conceptual models of care appropriate for older patients care in order to improve the quality of care provided.This study is a mixed method triangulated study, involving the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods through participatory action research methodology to establish an evidence-base for an evolving model of care.The model was tested on 60 acutely ill patients aged at least 65 years. The medical ward nurses selected a key reference group including the researcher to facilitate the participatory action research process to develop, implement and evaluate a new model of care based on Orem's self-care model incorporating the Nurses Improving Care to Health System Elders Faculty (Am J Nurs 1994; 94:21) medication protocol to improve the nursing care provided for acutely ill older patients.The participatory action research process resulted in improved heath-care outcomes for the patients, such as significant improvements in activities of daily living capabilities between admission to discharge, significant improvements in knowledge levels regarding their medication regimes, as well as increased satisfaction with nursing care activities as perceived by older patients and nursing staff. The implementation of educational sessions during the model of care improved the older patient's functional activities and knowledge levels of their medication regime prior to discharge. In addition, by repeatedly explaining procedures, nurses became more involved with their individual patient's care, developing a patient-centred care relationship based on Orem's self-care model.This study demonstrates the efficacy of a new model of nursing care in improving the quality of nursing care for older patients in the acute medical ward setting.This study is significant because of its evidence-base and demonstrates how the participatory action research process empowered nurses to make sustainable changes to their practice. The nurses in the study wanted to affect change. The planned change was not dictated by management, but was driven by the clinical nursing staff at the ‘grass roots’ level. Therefore, being involved in the decision-making process provided an incentive to actively implement change.