Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Nursing and Midwifery
To determine the cost effectiveness of increasing nurse staffing or changing the nursing skill mix in adult medical and/or surgical patients?
Research has demonstrated that nurse staffing levels and skill mix are associated with patient outcomes in acute care settings. If increased nurse staffing levels or richer skill mix can be shown to be cost-effective hospitals may be more likely to consider these aspects when making staffing decisions.
A systematic review of the literature on economic evaluations of nurse staffing and patient outcomes was conducted to see whether there is consensus that increasing nursing hours/skill mix is a cost-effective way of improving patient outcomes. We used the Cochrane Collaboration systematic review method incorporating economic evidence.
The MEDLINE, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus and PsychINFO databases were searched in 2013 for published and unpublished studies in English with no date limits.
The review focused on full economic evaluations where costs of increasing nursing hours or changing the skill mix were included and where consequences included nursing sensitive outcomes.
Four-cost benefit and five-cost effectiveness analyses were identified. There were no cost-minimization or cost-utility studies identified in the review. A variety of methods to conceptualize and measure costs and consequences were used across the studies making it difficult to compare results.
This review was unable to determine conclusively whether or not changes in nurse staffing levels and/or skill mix is a cost-effective intervention for improving patient outcomes due to the small number of studies, the mixed results and the inability to compare results across studies.