The True Value of Nurses in America

Nurses make up over 30% of a hospital’s ENTIRE workforce. Just take a step back and think about that. Some of the larger healthcare employers in the Grand Rapids area employ over 30,000 staff members, meaning that 9,000 members of that workforce are nurses. These nurses run almost every aspect of unit operations, flow, and overall daily activities within a hospital, yet they are considered one of the most expendable components of the system. Nurses also account for nearly 90% of a patient’s clinical encounter time while being cared for, but what gets quantified as “value” during the patient encounter? Physician time, diagnostic tests, and medications. 

Nurses Improve Patient Outcomes

Given this “value” equation as interpreted by hospital executives, the quickest budget mitigation efforts are targeted at nurse staffing. If this wasn’t crazy enough, now consider that study after study has demonstrated that increased nurse staffing DIRECTLY correlates to improved patient outcomes— not increased physician staffing, increased diagnostic tests performed, or increased medications administered, but increased NURSE staffing. Don’t try to complicate this and read in between the lines. It’s plain and simple: more nurses mean better patient care and outcomes. 

The average nurse’s salary across the US lies somewhere around $70-$75,000. This number does vary widely between states and geographic markets, but in general will fall somewhere in this range. A cohort study analyzing the impact of nurse staffing ratios revealed hospitals staffed at researched baseline levels per their unit acuity showed a reduction in mortality of 16% and a shorter length of stay overall for the patient, saving the hospital group nearly $117 million over the course of a year. I would argue, and think many would agree, that you can’t place a value on someone’s life and the importance of the nurse’s role should be justified by this fact alone. Layer in the overall savings and this isn’t even a conversation. The nursing workforce MUST be prioritized and be a primary focus for a healthcare institution. 

Why Communities in the US Need Nurses

What is lost by our extreme focus on hospitals as the center of health in the US, is the value and extreme need for nurses in communities. Nurses are almost exclusively pictured delivering “sickcare” in the hospitals, but our true value lies within our ability to coach, develop relationships, and educate an individual on what health truly is. A mobilization of preventative, “health” focused care by nurses is needed and that’s exactly what nursing movements like HealthBar are doing. By placing nurses in businesses and schools to promote increased time with patients and a proactive care strategy, their care teams are delivering healthcare out in the community where it’s the most effective. Instead of seeing a nurse as a dispensable resource, HealthBar sees nursing as the most critical component of care delivery and the core of its delivery model. The value this equates to for an individual and business is immense, seeing a minimum of a 10% decrease in healthcare cost savings year-over-year. 

Let’s start valuing the time and work a nurse does within these environments for what it is. Nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system, accounting for some of the most critical components of operations, patient care, and leadership. Let’s start valuing nurses to this end and realize that we can’t affect the change needed within our system without first correcting this VERY important component. It takes every clinical profession and specialty within a hospital to care for a patient, but I would argue that it takes good nursing first, then the rest.