Background: Improved understanding of the economic value of registered nurse services can help inform staffing decisions and policies.
Objectives: To quantify the economic value of professional nursing.
Methods: We synthesize findings from the literature on the relationship between registered nurse staffing levels and nursing-sensitive patient outcomes in acute care hospitals. Using hospital discharge data to estimate incidence and cost of these patient outcomes together with productivity measures, we estimate the economic implications of changes in registered nurse staffing levels.
Subjects: Medical and surgical patients in nonfederal acute care hospitals. Data come from a literature review, and hospital discharge data from the 2005 Nationwide Inpatient Sample.
Measures: Patient nosocomial complications, healthcare expenditures, and national productivity.
Results: As nurse staffing levels increase, patient risk of nosocomial complications and hospital length of stay decrease, resulting in medical cost savings, improved national productivity, and lives saved.
Conclusions: Only a portion of the services that professional nurses provide can be quantified in pecuniary terms, but the partial estimates of economic value presented illustrate the economic value to society of improved quality of care achieved through higher staffing levels.