Increasing nurse staffing levels in Belgian cardiac surgery centres: a cost-effective patient safety intervention?

J Adv Nurs. 2010 Jun;66(6):1291-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2010.05307.x.


Aim: This paper is a report of a cost-effectiveness analysis from a hospital perspective of increased nurse staffing levels (to the level of the 75th percentile) in Belgian general cardiac postoperative nursing units.

Background: A previous study indicated that increasing nurse staffing levels in Belgian general cardiac postoperative nursing units was associated with lower mortality rates. Research is needed to compare the costs of increased nurse staffing levels with benefits of reducing mortality rates.

Method: Two types of average national costs were compared. A first calculation included the simulation of an increase in the number of nursing hours per patient day to the 75th percentile for nursing units staffed below that level. For the second calculation (the comparator) we used a 'do nothing' alternative. The most recent available data sources were used for the analysis. Results were expressed in the form of the additional costs per avoided death and the additional costs per life-year gained. The analysis used 2007 costing data.

Findings: The costs of increasing nurse staffing levels to the 75th percentile in Belgian general cardiac postoperative nursing units amounted to euro1,211,022. Such nurse staffing levels would avoid an estimated number of 45.9 (95% confidence interval: 22.0-69.4) patient deaths per year and generate 458.86 (95% confidence interval: 219.93-693.79) life-years gained annually. This corresponds with incremental cost-effectiveness ratios of euro26,372 per avoided death and euro2639 per life-year gained.

Conclusion: Increasing nurse staffing levels appears to be a cost-effective intervention as compared with other cardiovascular interventions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Belgium
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / supply & distribution*
  • Postoperative Care / economics
  • Postoperative Care / nursing*
  • Safety Management*
  • Thoracic Surgery*
  • Workforce
  • Young Adult