The Nursing Minimum Data Set (NMDS) represents the first attempt to standardize the collection of essential nursing data. These minimum core data, used on a regular basis by the majority of nurses in the delivery of care across settings, can provide an accurate description of nursing diagnoses, nursing care, and nursing resources used. Collected on an ongoing basis, a standardized nursing data base will enable nurses to compare data across populations, settings, geographic areas, and time. Public health nurses will be able to evaluate and compare services. The purpose of this article is to discuss briefly the following aspects of the NMDS: background including definition, purposes, and elements; availability and reliability of the data; benefits; implications of the NMDS with emphasis on nursing research; and health policy decision making.