Podcast Explores How Nurses Are Impacting the Healthcare Landscape

A recent podcast presented by Freakonomics Radio highlighted the vital role that nurses are playing in the ever-evolving world of healthcare, and how they could help solve pressing problems associated with our current healthcare system. Americans place a great deal of trust in nurses, ranking them #1 on the Gallup Poll list of professions that are most honest and ethical for 15 consecutive years. But exactly what effect do nurses have on patient outcomes?

Nurses in DemandThe Dramatic Effect of Nurses on Patient Outcomes

To examine this effect, two researchers studied the effects of a parental-leave program in Denmark that was designed to ease unemployment in that country in the mid-1990s. Parents with a child age eight or younger were offered up to one year of additional leave of absence. However, since many more women took advantage of the program than men, the unintended result was that the nursing workforce suddenly shrank by 12 percent. This gave the researchers the perfect scenario to measure just how patients were affected by a shortage of nurses. The results were startling.

  • When examining 30-day readmission rates at hospitals, the researchers found Denmark’s nursing shortage resulted in a 21 percent increase in readmission for children and adults.
  • For infants, the nursing shortage resulted in a 45 percent increase in newborn readmission rates.
  • In Danish nursing homes, the reduction in nurses led to a 13 percent increase in mortality among people aged 85 and older.

Could Nurse Practitioners Save an Overburdened Healthcare System?

As demand for health care services continues to spike, especially in primary care, the Association of Medical Colleges projects a potential shortage of up to 43,000 primary care doctors by 2030. Since nurses are so effective and also relatively less expensive than doctors, many within the industry believe highly-trained nurses called nurse practitioners (NPs) are the answer to combating the doctor shortage.

Could Retail Clinics Change the Healthcare Landscape?

Many economists believe that having more competition in healthcare markets might drive down costs and improve the way that healthcare functions – and retail clinics are one way to increase healthcare availability while decreasing costs. A study on the impact of nurse practitioners practicing at retail clinics in New Jersey found that emergency room visits were significantly reduced in geographic areas that had retail clinics nearby. Other findings included:

  • People residing close to an open retail clinic were up to 12 percent less likely to visit an ER for preventable and minor conditions, such as earache and pink eye.
  • Retail clinics saved patients money by encouraging preventive care including flu shots and timely diabetes testing.
  • Researchers estimated that reduced ER usage and better preventive care could result in an estimated annual cost savings of more than $70 million if retail clinics were accessible throughout New Jersey.

Physician Assistants and Quality of Care

Similarly, physician assistants (PAs) are aligned with nurses in improving healthcare outcomes and easing the strain on doctors in many areas. PAs are nationally board-certified, state-licensed healthcare providers, and are trained to diagnose and treat patients and prescribe medication. According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, studies have shown that the quality of care provided by PAs is comparable to that of physicians. The states with the highest number of recently certified PAs include New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, California and Florida.

Learn More About RediClinic

RediClinic health clinic is proud to provide high-quality, convenient and affordable healthcare. Our staff of board-certified clinicians – including hundreds of caring nurse practitioners and physician assistants – treat most common medical conditions and offer a wide range of preventive services. Find out how we can serve the healthcare needs of your family.

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