Ultimately, hospitals are businesses that need to streamline operational expenses like any other. They may have the noble task of saving lives, but they have to be profitable to stay afloat. Most medical establishments focus their cost reduction efforts on labor and unfortunately nurses are often most at risk during these times. Cutting staff and nurses can vastly decrease staffing cost, at least on paper. Yet studies are now showing that the opposite may prove to be the better strategy. Hiring more nurses can actually lead to enhanced patient experience, decreased costs and improvements in efficiency.
To learn why, checkout the following infographic created by the Adventist University of Health Sciences’ Online RN BSN program.
The High Cost of Having Low Nurse Staffing
Hospitals that are perennially understaffed suffer from a number of issues. They tend to have higher rates of poor patient outcomes. Many succumb to pneumonia, shock, cardiac arrest, and urinary tract infection during their stay. The development of pneumonia is particularly troubling as the cost of care increases by 84%. Meanwhile, pressure ulcers cost an estimated $8.5 billion per year. There is also a worsening of the 30-day mortality rate. Understaffed facilities are more likely to fail in rescuing patients in emergency situations.
These outcomes are truly a very high price to pay for those that intend to keep their nurse staffing at a low level. It is not only the individuals and their families who suffer. The bad experience is likely to be passed around through word-of-mouth and affect the hospital’s reputation in the community. People will seek out better alternatives to avoid having a similar harrowing experience.
Improving Patient Outcomes through Hiring More Nurses
Let us look at what might happen in case a hospital decides to go against the grain and actually hire more nurses as suggested by some studies. According to the report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the patient outcomes significantly improve across the board. It found that 7 additional lives would be saved for every 100 patients if only the facility would increase nurse staffing from 4 to 6 per bed. Getting more trained people to monitor the patients is invaluable.
There are also reductions in the rates of onsite infections and complications. Urinary tract infection, a very common occurrence in hospitals, may drop by as much as 25%. Meanwhile, the incidence of upper gastrointestinal bleeding may plummet by up to 17%. Patient hygiene and care will improve to such a state that cases of hospital-acquired pneumonia could fall by 17% as well. As for shock or cardiac arrest, the report found a possible 7% to 13% reduction. A greater number of nurses are clearly a boon for the patients.
Saving Lives and Money
The rise in staffing not only results in an enhanced ability to save lives but also produces many economic benefits for individual patients and the country as a whole. Each year, it is estimated that an additional 133,000 registered nurses in the hospital workforce could save 5,900 lives every year translating into an increase in national productivity by $1.3 billion, roughly a contribution of $9,900 per year per RN.
Patients will no longer need to stay long inside hospitals since they receive better attention and recover much quicker. As much as 3.6 million hospital days can be cut, resulting in $6.1 billion in medical savings. This is a great deal of money that can be channeled to more productive pursuits. Every patient care RN will generate over $60,000 per year in medical cost reduction and national productivity improvement.
Giving Hospitals a Competitive Advantage
Hospitals that would like to survive and thrive in this competitive environment should seriously study the possibility of augmenting their current staff with nurses. On an annual basis, Per RN, total savings can include $7,400 from preventing nursing-sensitive adverse events, $2,500 in professional services savings related to reduced length of stay, and $38,100 in hospital-related savings. Experts say that raising the proportion of RNs without changing licensed hours at an estimated cost of $811 would produce short-term savings of $242 million — a clear win for hospitals that want to make sound financial decisions.
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