Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Can healthcare save money by hiring more nurses

Can healthcare save money by hiring more nurses, Everyone likes to save money. That’s a fairly rationale statement. Is it rationale and perhaps smart to consider that healthcare could have millions, if not billions of dollars, by hiring more nurses?

Consider this:

Nurse staffing ratios have long been considered one of the most contributing factors to patient satisfaction and patient outcomes
Multiple studies have linked nurse exhaustion to increased risk for hospital acquired infections
Hospital acquired infections are known to contribute millions of dollars to healthcare cost each year
Nurses who are less tired are less likely to burn out
The population is aging and therefore will need more healthcare providers (not less)
As noted in a September 28, 2010 article by Diana Manos, a contributing editor for Healthcare Finance News, a group of nurses in Massachusetts believed so steadfastly in the importance of improved staffing ratios for better, safer patient care, they actually took a salary pay cut.

How many people or professions do you know who would do such a thing just to assure the better outcome of someone else? Not many for sure.

In some states, nurses fight and fight hard against long hours and poor staffing ratios. Many people (professionals and non-professionals) inside and outside of the healthcare arena have known for decades that nurses were being burned up at both ends of the candlestick.

Many years ago as nursing hours evolved from 8 hour shifts to 12 hour shifts, there was concern about the impact of this evolution on staff and on patients. Of course, it seemed to be a good thing at the time for money purposes because there was a nursing shortage and if people worked 12 hours, the industry could get by with fewer nurses, in theory, anyway.

What this theory did not take into account was the true impact of 12 hour shifts on nurses and on patients. Twelve hours of hard, fast-paced, nerve-wracking, high-level thinking and care giving can be too much for anyone. Even the best of nurses and doctors running continuously at ninety-to-nothing are going to burn out.

So…what happens when nurses burn out? They have to be replaced with newer, less experienced nurses and the education and experience of the seasoned veterans walks out the door deciding that they can just no longer put their heart into a work that no longer considers them as an important part of the equation.

Now, we fast forward twenty plus years into an age where 12 hour shifts and nursing shortages are still going on. Only now the nation has begun to pay closer attention to patient care and patient satisfaction. Nurses are still tired and still burning out. Nurses are still short-staffed and burning both ends of the candle. But, since these patient advocates and bedside warriors are the primary care at the bedside would it deserve a second look that utilizing them better could save healthcare enormously?

If nurses were not so tired and not short-staffed, would it be reasonable to consider that even better care could be delivered? Would it be reasonable to consider that there could be a decrease in hospital acquired infections, recurrent admissions, etc.

Worthy of consideration? What do you think?

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