How Much Is a Nurse Really Worth?
In an innovative study by the Lewin Group, the true economic value of nursing is finally quantified. The research, published in the journal Medical Care
, is the result of years of analysis of data on the correlation between patient outcomes and nurse staffing levels. To read the complete article, visit www.lww-medicalcare.com
. The study was supported by grants from Nursing's Agenda for the Future, the American Nurses Association (ANA), and a coalition of nursing associations dedicated to addressing nursing workforce issues (www.nursingworld.org
"Nurses are a vital component to the health care system," said ANA President Rebecca M. Patton. "This nursing funded study provides a model that shows how nurses affect the delivery of cost-effective, high quality care, and prevent adverse events."
The research culled findings from 28 different studies that analyzed the relationship between higher RN staffing and several patient outcomes: reduced hospital-based mortality, hospital-acquired pneumonia, unplanned extubation, failure to rescue, nosocomial bloodstream infections, and length of stay.
The findings demonstrate that as nursing staffing levels increase, patient risk of complications and hospital length of stay decrease, resulting in medical costs savings, improved national productivity and lives saved.
More Nurses Will Yield More Savings?
Estimates from this study suggest that adding 133,000 RNs to the acute care hospital workforce would save 5,900 lives per year. The productivity value of total deaths averted is equivalent to more than $1.3 billion per year, or about $9900 per additional RN per year. The additional nurse staffing would decrease hospital days by 3.6 million. More rapid recovery translates into increased national productivity, conservatively estimated at $231 million per year. Medical savings is estimated at $6.1 billion, or $46,000 per additional RN per year. Combining medical savings with increased productivity, the partial estimates of economic value averages $57,700 for each of the additional 133,000 RNs.
The research findings suggest significant policy related issues. First and foremost, healthcare facilities cannot realize the full economic value of professional nursing due to current reimbursement systems. Additionally, the economic value of nursing is greater for payers than for individual healthcare facilities.
Put simply, in order to realize long-term savings, a hospital is better off hiring additional nurses than trying to achieve short-term savings by cutting back on nursing staff.